Geology and archaeology, including Malvern geology trail by bike; rock climbing.

The main Malvern Hills page covers the springs, wells and spouts around the Malverns; points of interest and conservation of the hills.

Also See

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.

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 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.

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

The Community Conservation Champions, volunteers connected with the Earth Heritage Trust, have some interesting webpages. Tank and North Quarry (north Malvern), Westminster Bank Quarry and Dingle Quarry (both west Malvern), 

Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark. A Geopark Way (launched 2009) has a route totalling 109 miles from Bridgnorth to Gloucester (designed to be done in sections!), exploring 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 cake

Picture 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.

Railways in Worcestershire article  on Narrow Gauge railways in the Malvern Hills (written in 1976) links to pieces about the various quarries that they operated in/around. BBC Hereford and Worcester pages on Geology, Quarrying and Railway Tunnels.

English Heritage book, March 2005, The Malvern Hills: An Archaeological Landscape, ISBN 1873592825.

Published April 2017 by Logaston Press, Herefordshire’s Rocks and Scenery: A Geology of the County was written by members of the geology section of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club. £15, over 200 colour illustrations, ISBN 978-1-910839-16-4.

Worcestershire Archaeological Service.

A Thousand Years of Building with Stone was an EHT project which ran to 2017,  when they recorded, catalogued and untangled the history of stone use in heritage buildings across Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The Building Stones database and other resources remain available.

See History resources for other archaeological sites and groups. Gloucestershire Geology Trust website for info on Forest of Dean, Severn vale etc.

Rock Climbing: See the entry on UKClimbing Database for a description of the popular Ivy Scar Crag. This has a linked PDF guidebook clearly titled ‘Rock climbs on the Malvern Hills’ (2005).

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.