North Hill to Beacon

Malvern Hills: Water, Landscape and History

Also see


Malvern Water

Springs, Wells, Fountains, Well Dressing

Malvern developed massively in the Victorian era around ‘taking the waters’. A key date is 1842, when Drs James Wilson and Gully set up their water cure establishments in Belle Vue, at the centre of town. Two famous Victorian era Charles’ came to Malvern for the water – both Dickens and Darwin, with their respective wives.

Malvern Water was until recently bottled at Colwall by Schweppes (part of Coca Cola). This plant has closed, but you can still get the water for free from the various springs (take note of any warning signs re quality). The reputation of the water was firmly established by J Schweppe & Co. at the Great Exhibition in 1851. There have been other bottlers, going back to the 17th century and the latest is Holywell, at one of the original sites. It is best known for “containing nothing at all” (i.e. high levels of purity).

A well dressed Evendine spring Malvern Spa Association has a more comprehensive list of springs etc. plus their location (approx. 70 in the area). Wells of Malvern is a map from Harvey (see Outdoor Links for contact details, or order from Amazon), similar to part of their Hills walking map. Also see under Points of Interest below for our own Google Map/GPX record. Check any notices of water quality if you want to take a drink (and some springs may be ‘dry’, or at least not running).

  • St Ann’s Well (Great Malvern): see cafe entry on Food & Drink.
  • Holy Well (Malvern Wells)
  • Morris Well, Wells Common (Lower Wyche)
  • Temperance Fountain, Worcester Road (Malvern Link)
  • Enigma Fountain plus Malvhina water feature, Belle Vue Terrace (Great Malvern)
  • Jubilee Fountain (Malvern Wells)
  • Beauchamp Fountain, Cowleigh Road
  • Evendine Spring, Jubilee Drive
  • Hayslad Spring, West Malvern Road

Cora Weaver has written a number of related books (which can be obtained via The Spas Research Fellowship): Springs, Spouts, Fountains and Holy Wells of the Malverns; Aquae Malvernensis; A Short Guide to Malvern as a Spa Town; other titles on Malvern history.

Well dressing competition happens May Day weekend – see Events. Some pictures of dressed springs (2002 to  2007). Anyone can apply (to Spa Assoc) to dress a site, on a first come first served basis.

Local BBC pages are worth a look.

A review on London Review of Books of Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain (paperback pub’d 2000, from Amazon) includes the following: “The hydrotherapy in Malvern cured both Florence Nightingale and, in part, Tennyson, ‘who came after a nervous breakdown, and declared he was “half-cured, half-destroyed” by the place’. Charles Darwin ‘arrived depressed and unable to write, but was so persuaded by the effects of his treatment that he returned three more times’. (Darwin was to have his own douche-bath fed with Malvern water installed at home.)”

Malvern Hills

This well known ridge runs roughly north/south, to the west of Great Malvern, and stretches for 8 miles or more (depending on what you include). William Cobbett, the author of Rural Rides (available at Amazon), described the Malvern Hills as “those curious bubblings up”, when staying at Woollas Hall (quote from Mark Horrell‘s web site). While the ridge itself is open, and often windy, the lower slopes have a range of woodland and scrub, with quarries to explore (not all are recommended as safe).

Malvern Hills Conservators are responsible for management of the Hills plus other green spaces dotted around. Their web site has info on birds and plants to look out for. The Conservators were set up by Act of Parliament in 1884, pre-dating National Parks in Britain by some way and just 12 years after Yellowstone in the US – four more Malvern Hills Acts of Parliament followed. There was a long struggle to limit the damage done by quarrying, which went on to some extent until the 1970s. Find out more history at Malvern Museum.

The Conservators have produced a range of useful leaflets, covering Wildlife highlights, Access paths and a couple of Hill walks. Green spaces and hidden places gives info on some of the land managed by the Conservators around and beyond the Hills. Obtain from the Conservators office in Grange Road (opposite the Theatre) or the TIC in Church St – often they are tucked away in the window, perhaps behind the ice cream! Also available as pdf downloads from Conservators web site, along with copies of their Information Boards at particular hill locations (Earnslaw Quarry, Gullet Quarry, Swinyard car park, British Camp).

The Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty extends beyond the Hills themselves, reaching from Knightwick to Bromsberrow, and from Ledbury to Welland, totalling some 105 square kilometres. The ‘About the AONB’ section on the Malvern Hills AONB web site is probably the best place to start, and has various outline maps – landscape, wildlife, geology etc. Note that links next to publications mentioned on the site are generally to downloads in pdf format, and to order any listed either contact the AONB or try Malvern Tourist Info.

BBC Hereford and Worcester has a good (archived) section on Malvern Hills: Hills, History and H20,

The Forest and Chase of Malvern by Pamela Hurle, History Press 2007, from Amazon.co.uk. Malvern Chase, to the east of the Hills, was at one time a large area used for hunting by royalty – a couple of paragraphs on the Conservators History page.

Malvern Chase: An Episode in the Wars of the Roses and the Battle of Tewkesbury by William Symonds, first published 1880, Capella Archive 1999. Try Amazon.co.uk.

Points of Interest

We’ve compiled GPS data for use with Google Maps etc, recording refreshment stops, springs, bins, car parks, etc. along the Malvern Hills. More to add (e.g. more springs), but see the Google Map or download the GPX (from TrackLogs) file containing waypoints.

Worcestershire Beacon Worcester Beacon Octoberis the highest point, and has a toposcope showing the various hills, rivers etc. that can be seen on a clear day. The original brass plate from the toposcope is now kept in the Conservators offices, due to an earlier theft.

The café which was near the toposcope burnt down many years ago and has not been replaced.

British Camp [pic] aka Herefordshire Beacon, is the most well known hill with old earthworks, but it isn’t the highest spot. Large car park, bus stop, kiosk with quality ice creams, pub/hotel all at the bottom. Public toilets are just behind the kiosk – the gents used to have a good view, but this is now obscured by frosted glass. Grid ref SO761402. The Anglo-Norman Castles website has a page on the history around Herefordshire Beacon – updated insights have been published by historian Paul Remfry, the author of various publications on castles in the Welsh Marches.

Other toilet facilities: Wyche Cutting (Wyche Road/Jubilee Drive), West Malvern Road near Brewers Arms/footpath to The Dingle, St Ann’s Well (when café is open).

MalvernTrail info on refreshment facilities on and around the Hills.

Clutters Cave, Broad Down, grid ref SO763394 [pic]. Just south of British Camp.

Castlemorton Common is a rather different landscape and habitat towards the southern end, near village of Welland. Castlemorton Common website was set up for the Castlemorton Commons Coordinating Committee, covering the commons of Castlemorton, Coombe Green, Shady Bank, and Hollybed. As well as minutes and information for residents there’s good stuff on history, geology and wildlife.

Midsummer Hill has some interesting history and geology – see Geology section below. This is close to Eastnor Deer Park, and through there Eastnor Castle – see Towns and Villages info page.

Get the map: Worcester and the Malverns, Evesham and Tewkesbury Ordnance Survey Landranger (150) from Amazon. Or the more detailed Explorer map, Malvern Hills and Bredon Hill (190) at Amazon.

The Malverns, Images of England series from NPI Media. Archive photographs documenting life in the Malverns from the 1860s until the 1950s. From Amazon.co.uk

Malvern Geology and Archaeology

There is a common perception that the Malvern Hills are made of one type of stone, the oldest in England. It is actually much more complex and interesting. There is a little information on the AONB web site Key Features page.

Printed Explore Trail Guides are good sources of information on local geology and landscape, from Here & Worcs Earth Heritage Trust (focusing on Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites – RIGS). From Tourist Info Centres, Beacon Books, or phone 01905 855184 (£1-95 or £2 each). For the immediate Malvern area there are:

  • Wyche and Purlieu: a walking trail from The Wyche downhill to the west (and back). Note: the house marking the turn for point 4 is now 1 Purlieu Cottages, not Rivendell House as per the guide. We have created a GPX record (GPS Exchange format) of this, extending to Colwall Station (and passing Malvern Water bottling plant) but missing out point 8 – note that tree cover means that only the turn for point 4 (limestone exposure) is indicated.
  • Malvern Hills 1: a cycle (or car) tour of the Malvern Hills from northern end to British Camp. See below for some additional comments for the cyclist.
  • Malvern Hills 2:  a walking trail around Midsummer Hill towards the south end of the range. (The guide should include an insert describing the iron age hill fort and flora and fauna to watch out for.) It would be possible to incorporate most of this into our own ‘Three Counties Loop’ walk, but you’ll need to allow extra time – see Walking page. Alternatively, download our GPX file (GPS Exchange format) of the basic route.
  • Great Malvern Building Stones Trail, looking at the origins of the varied material used in the town.

MalvernTrail’s editor has knowledge of most of these trails and would be happy to advise or lead on connected walks or cycle rides. See About Us for contact details.

Malvern Hills GeoCentre, just to the west of Wyche Cutting, is the official visitor information centre for the Geopark Way (opened spring 2013). Refreshments also available.

Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark (there’s also info on Glos Geoconservation Trust site). A Geopark Way (launched spring 2009) has a route totalling 109 miles from Bridgnorth to Gloucester (designed to be done in sections!), explorings 700 million years of the Earth’s history. See EHT site for guide details, and what the Geopark Way waymarker looks like.

Malvern Hills layer cakePicture Note: the photo is a part of an amazing tilted layer cake of May Hill sandstone which crashes into the Malvern Hills. It is fairly fragile and not that easy to get to – please treat with respect. Alternative photo.

English Heritage book, March 2005, The Malvern Hills: An Archaeological Landscape, ISBN 1873592825 – buy from Amazon.co.uk.

Malvern Industrial Archaeology Circle has a piece (written in 1976) on Narrow Gauge railways in the Malvern Hills – their section on Quarries on the Hills has disappeared, at Jan. 2014. BBC Hereford and Worcester pages on Geology, Quarrying and Railway Tunnels.

Worcestershire Archaeological Service.

See History resources for other archaeological sites and groups.

Rock Climbing: See the entry on UKClimbing Database for a description of the popular Ivy Scar Crag.

Malvern Hills Geology Trail

The EHT ‘Explore Malvern Hills 1′ landscape and geology trail (see above) is designed more for motorists but it works quite well for cyclists too. Here are some suggestions to make it an even better (and safer) exploration by bike.

The basic route

The Hills obviously go up and down, so expect to have to do some fairly serious climbing in places! Our alternative route suggestion, below, allows the odd stop or even bike push to become part of the experience. Otherwise:

  • There is a long slowish climb from stop 1 (north Malvern, near clock tower) to half way to stop 2 (far side of West Malvern). Parking that forces one way traffic on this road can add to the pain.
  • Stop 1 is at the north end of the Hills. This is usually shady and cool, but is also a climb from the Worcester Road, and the right turn into North Malvern Road if approaching from the north is very sharp – watch out for motorists taking it wide. There are bike racks near the information board at Tank Quarry. Also note that just down the road from the Clock Tower is Back on Track cycle shop.
  • Coming back to Malvern from Colwall has a set of steep S bends up to the Wyche. You could just go as far as stop 5 instead (Evendine spring), missing out stop 6 (limestone exposure) and Colwall completely. Especially, when we looked August 07, the exposure was completely overgrown (unless we were in the wrong place!). We’d also detour to British Camp in between stops 4 and 5 – see Points of Interest above.

Alternative suggestion

We’ve created a GPS file of this geology cycle trail (in GPX format generated by TrackLogs software) although it could do with a little more work. Around 10 miles if stop 6 is included, almost 2 miles less if left out.

  • Start the trail at stop 3 (Gardiners Quarry near the Kettle Sings tea room). To get there
    • First climb up from Great Malvern along Wyche Road, and stop for the views near the bottom (before the houses) and again nearly at the top (just before the road bends right through the cutting). Look over the Severn plain – of Triassic mudstones – towards the Cotswold escarpment and Bredon Hill – both Jurassic rock. Refer to the Viewpoint entries in the Wyche and Purlieu leaflet if you have it. Extra detour for super keenies: take in Earnslaw Quarry by detouring off the climb (towards the top) at the first car park on the right and follow the gravel path to the right of the noticeboard.
    • Continue through Wyche Cutting, make use of the toilets on the left if needed and then cross over to look at the view out west. This has Silurian limestone giving a more rolling countryside to that to the east of the Hills.
  • Carry along to stops 3 and 4 (Black Hill). Then it might be a good time to carry on to British Camp for refreshments (and a climb on foot up to the ancient earthworks if feeling energetic – cycle racks near the road/downhill end of car park).
  • Take in stop 5 (Evendine Spring) and decide whether to go on down to Colwall/stop 6 and then go through Colwall with a stiff climb back up to the Wyche, or stay on the level. I’d strongly recommend skipping stop 6 myself (and at summer 07 the limestone exposure was overgrown anyway).
  • Visit stops 2 (West of England Quarry) and 1 (Tank Quarry) in reverse order on the way back. As the return goes along the west side for quite a way, late afternoon sun and views can be really good.

Comments welcome

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