Nestled between the Malvern Hills and the Cotswolds, sleepy Worcestershire is full of rural charm
Few ranges in Britain are quite so satisfyingly shapely as the Malvern Hills. The rounded belt of green peaks stretches to a total length of some eight miles – no great distance, but the chain’s pleasing bulk is accentuated by flatlands on either side, making the hills not just an uplifting sight but a natural magnet for the eye.
The range rather begs to be walked, and the good news for those who heed the call is that the summits are simple to climb and afford deep, drowsy views over both English and Welsh countryside.
The hills certainly worked their allure on the great composer Sir Edward Elgar, who was born and spent much of his life in one of the counties spread under them: proud, peaceful Worcestershire. Elgar, whose Pomp & Circumstance Marches and Enigma Variations remain among the most recognisable British classical works of all time, is known to have drawn inspiration for some of his compositions from the beauty of these same hills. When he died in 1934, he was buried a mere ute-call away at St Wulstan’s Church in Little Malvern, where his gravestone – shared with his wife – still stands.
Elgar wasn’t alone in his appreciation of the Malvern Hills. The writer JRR Tolkien also hiked here and is said to have based some of his depictions of Middle Earth on their flowing topography. And if all this seems like a rather recent historical take on an ancient mass of land, the hills have many older associations too.
A happy quirk of geology means their spring waters have been valued for centuries, while an Iron Age hillfort, reportedly home to a 4,000-strong tribe, once occupied one of the summits. In other words, they’ve been taking in the view from up here for millennia. To appreciate the broader pull of Worcestershire itself, of course, you need to venture back down the slopes. This picturesque county tends to get overlooked by mass tourism but has no shortage of selling points – a combination that holds agreeable results for visitors.
The local map is dotted with historic market towns, timber-framed villages and stately homes, and the southern fringes of the county form part of the Cotswolds: indeed, the pretty Worcestershire village of Broadway, with its ne hilltop tower, is one of that region’s highlights.
But while the Cotswolds are a world of their own, the rest of the county holds plenty of appeal.
For the full article and to find out just what the rest of the county holds, see Vol 87 Issue 1 of BRITAIN magazine on sale here