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).

 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), 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). Maintenance of the spouts etc. will depend mainly on landowners (we think), but there may be financial support available e.g. from Malvern Hills AONB.

  • 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)A well dressed Evendine spring
  • Beauchamp Fountain, Cowleigh Road
  • Evendine Spring, Jubilee Drive
  • Hayslad Spring, West Malvern Road

Cora Weaver has written a number of related books such as The Great Malvern Water Trail; A Short Guide to Malvern as a Spa Town; other titles on Malvern history.

Well dressing competition happens May Day weekend – see Events. Here are 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) 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, described the Malvern Hills as “those curious bubblings up”, when staying at Woollas Hall. 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 Trust (known as Malvern Hills Conservators up to April 2017) is responsible for management of the Hills plus other green spaces dotted around. The web site has a little info on birds, plants and other wildlife 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.

The Trust 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 MHT office in Grange Road (opposite the Theatre) or the TIC in Church St. Copies are on their Information Boards at particular hill locations (Earnslaw Quarry, Gullet Quarry, Swinyard car park, British Camp). Also may be available as pdf downloads .

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,

Malvern Chase, to the east of the Hills, was at one time a large area used for hunting by royalty.

  • The Forest and Chase of Malvern by Pamela Hurle, History Press 2007.
  • Malvern Chase: An Episode in the Wars of the Roses and the Battle of Tewkesbury by William Symonds, first published 1880, Capella Archive 1999.

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.

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) – also known as Giants Cave. Just south of British Camp.

Castlemorton Common is a rather different landscape and habitat towards the southern end, near the village of Welland. A Castlemorton Common website was hosted by MHT for the Castlemorton Commons Coordinating Committee, try this link. It covers/covered 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). Or the more detailed Explorer map, Malvern Hills and Bredon Hill (190).

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

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 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 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.

The very active geology group of Malvern University of Third Age had a tour of “newly renovated sites in the northern Malvern Hills” in 2016 – report has photos and some info.

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.

Enjoy the natural and cultural delights of the Malvern Hills area, town and countryside

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