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THIS walk is at the request of a Worcester News reader, originally from Malvern and now living in Worcester after several years working abroad.
What she missed most while she was away was Malvern’s trees, and it’s not hard to see why.
Probably no other English town of a similar size has so many fine trees, as illustrated by a stroll around the streets near to the train station and colleges, and through Priory Park and Priory churchyard.
This leafiness is partly due to the foresight of Victorian landowners, such as Lady Foley, who released land for development only on condition that housing would be low density with abundant tree planting in both gardens and streets.
There are plenty of trees on the hills, too. Among the oldest and largest are the magnificent beeches, sweet chestnuts and limes near St Ann’s Well and there are many more fine specimens beside North Walk, the path which runs above Worcester Road and Link Top to North Quarry.
On the western slopes there are groves of graceful silver birches and a scattering of colourful rowans.
The Malverns actually have a fairly varied range of habitats but it would all eventually revert to woodland if left unmanaged.
You can see this process in action, as bracken, gorse, brambles, birch and oaks colonise the grassy slopes. This mix of grassland, scrub, young woodland and mature woodland makes the hills valuable for wildlife, and attractive to people, so the Malvern Hills Conservators graze sheep and cattle on the hills to maintain the present diverse mixture.
For many centuries the Malvern Hills were subject to quarrying, which took massive chunks out of their slopes. Today, thanks to the trees which have so successfully colonised them, the former quarries often make a pleasant addition to the landscape. You’ll pass several quarries on this walk and they’re all worth a closer look.
Earnslaw Quarry has even acquired a lake, the result of natural spring water welling up.
It’s lovely in summer, when covered in water lilies, but even in winter it’s attractive, especially in good weather with the surrounding trees reflected in it.
At Tank Quarry there’s a short geological trail with examples of the different types of rock found in the Malverns.
Three main types of rock make up the Earth’s surface – igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary – and all are found in the Malvern Hills. Tank Quarry itself was plundered for its diorite, a 600- million-year-old igneous rock, dark grey in colour, resistant to erosion, full of minerals and known commercially as black granite.
Start: Great Malvern, grid ref SO775459.
Length: Four-and-a-half miles/7km.
Maps: OS Explorer 190, OS Landranger 150, Harvey Superwalker Malvern Hills, Harvey/Malvern Spa Association Wells of Malvern Map and Guide, Great Malvern Walking and Cycling Map. The latter is published by the county council and available free of charge from the tourist information centre in Malvern.
Terrain: Woodland and open hillside, undulating but not steep.
Parking: Town centre, North Quarry or Tank Quarry. The route is described from the town centre.
Public transport: Frequent daily buses (44/362/363) and trains from Worcester; worcestershire.gov.uk/ bustimetables or 01905 765765.
Refreshments: Town centre and St Ann’s Well Cafe (open Friday to Sunday in winter).
1 Take St Ann’s Road, which leaves Worcester Road between the Unicorn pub and Malvern Hills Gallery, to the side of Belle Vue traffic island near the top of Church Street. After a short climb take a path on the right just after a wooden shed overgrown with ivy.
Take the lower branch on the right when the path forks. Ignore all subsequent branching paths and eventually you will pass through North Quarry car park to North Malvern Road. Turn left, then take a path which runs past the clock tower. Returning to the road, turn left towards Tank Quarry. Climb a flight of steps and then walk parallel with the road for a while before rejoining it, where signs indicate Worcestershire Way and Geopark Way.
2 Take a path on the left just before an electricity sub-station.
The path climbs a little way up End Hill then bends sharp right to contour round the hill. Ignore all branching paths until you come to Westminster Bank Spring. Fork left here, signed to the Beacon.
Quite soon, the path swings sharp left to climb above a deep valley called the Dingle. When you reach the head of the valley, just below a col marked by a round, stone route indicator, turn second right so that you walk above the other side of the Dingle.
3 Don’t go all the way down to West Malvern Road but look out for another path which branches left to run along the hillside. Pass below Worcestershire Beacon, through a car park and past quarries, after which the path divides into three. Take the middle one and climb slightly to another round, stone route indicator at the Gold Mine. Choose the path for Earnslaw and St Ann’s Well.
Follow it to a junction and fork right. When you come to Earnslaw Quarry turn right on a path signed to St Ann’s Well.
4 The path descends to Wyche Road but immediately climbs uphill again. A little further on, when it forks, it’s best to go left on the higher path, which leads to St Ann’s Well. Turn right at the well, so that you pass to the left of a pool, and descend to St Ann’s Road.
You can go left or right, but the latter is more interesting. Go towards Half Way and Bella Sguardo then descend steps to Rose Bank Gardens and the town centre.