THIS short but hilly walk begins by following the Worcestershire Way across the Malvern Hills.
The official start/finish point of the Way is Rose Bank Gardens, from where it climbs past St Ann’s Well to the saddle between Worcestershire Beacon and North Hill.
Rather than turning left here, as you might expect, to climb Worcestershire Beacon, it turns right instead, to follow Lady Howard de Walden Drive around North Hill before descending to North Malvern. From there it heads north to the Suckley Hills (and ultimately to Bewdley) but our route goes west instead, for a brief foray into the wooded limestone hills on the borders of Worcestershire and Herefordshire.
Lady Howard de Walden Drive is a good choice for the Worcestershire Way, its hard surfacing protecting it from the erosion that can be a problem on these well-trodden hills. It was originally built as a carriage drive for the eponymous Lady de Walden (born Lucy Cavendish- Scott-Bentinck in 1813), who lived at West Malvern in a massive Victorian house that is now a girls’ boarding school, St James and the Abbey.
When Lady de Walden died in 1899 one obituary described her as perhaps the most eccentric woman in Britain. Eccentric or not, she did much to benefit Malvern. She was responsible for many of the trees that make Great Malvern such a wonderfully leafy town and she spent lavishly on footpath creation on the hills.
St Ann’s Well is a popular spot with visitors, especially when the café is open. The pump room was built in about 1816 and the octagonal extension in about 1860.
Though it was only in the 19th century that the well began to attract large numbers of visitors, it had been known and valued locally for many centuries.
There is believed to have been a pre-Conquest hermitage on the hillside just below St Ann’s and the 11th-century builders of Malvern Priory are thought to have been frequent visitors to the well.
Start: Great Malvern town centre, grid ref SO775459.
Length: 5½ miles/9km.
Maps: OS Explorer 190, OS Landranger 150, Harvey's Malvern Hills Superwalker.
Terrain: Grassland and woodland, moderately hilly, occasionally steep.
Footpaths: Excellent, apart from atrocious waymarking in High Wood.
Parking: Public car parks in Great Malvern.
Public transport: Daily trains and buses (First 44/362/363), frequent on weekdays, hourly on Sundays; worcestershire.gov.uk/bustimetables or 01905 765765.
Refreshments: There’s a good choice of cafés and bars in Great Malvern – including St Ann’s Café on the hills (open Friday, Saturday and Sunday) – and the Lamb Inn at West Malvern.
1 Walk up Church Street and turn left at the top when you reach Belle Vue Terrace and then turn right at the sign: Worcestershire Way to the hills. Walk through Rose Bank Gardens and up the Ninety-nine Steps. Continue to a junction and turn second left.
Climb to St Ann’s Well, pass to the left of it and keep climbing, watching for small stone waymarkers. At any junction which isn’t waymarked you can assume you keep climbing. When you reach a
crosspath the Beacon is to the left, should you want to go to the top. Otherwise, turn right, signed to North Malvern, still following the Worcestershire Way, which loops around North Hill,
eventually making its way to the west side of the hills and then turning sharp right above West Malvern before making a steep descent from the side of End Hill to the Lamb Inn and West Malvern Road
at North Malvern.
2 Leaving the Worcestershire Way, cross to Old Hollow and turn left. Go straight on at a junction, along a bridleway. Pass Malvern Hills Outdoor Education Centre and keep straight on at a junction by some climbing walls.
Turn right on a footpath just before a green mobile home. Cross a stile and descend by a fence then to the right of some large oak trees.
You’ll soon see two stiles below – descend to cross the one on the left then cross the ensuing field to a gate. Ford shallow Whippets Brook and follow a bridleway up through two fields then into Cother Wood.
Climb to a ridge-top path and turn right. Keep straight on at the next junction, a few paces further on.
3 Take the next right, descending through the wood to a field.
When you leave the trees you’ll see a stile directly below on the left, but the right of way actually continues forward for 100m to a hedge gap, and then turns left beside the hedge to the stile.
Having crossed the stile, follow an obvious path across Whippets Brook and up to High Wood. Keep going uphill through the trees to reach a waymarked crosspath.
4 Turn right, descend to the woodland edge and follow it until you have to turn left just before a brook. Fork left at an unmarked junction. Keep straight on at the next two, neither of which is waymarked. Go left at a T-junction (not waymarked) then left at a crosspath (not waymarked) then turn right at the next crosspath (waymarked). Go left at the next junction (waymarked) and at the next, a few paces further on (waymarked). Go right at the next (not waymarked).
The path eventually swings left and passes through a stand of beech trees and is then easily followed to a waymarked junction at the edge of the wood. Keep straight on, and then straight on again
at the next junction.
5 Returning to Old Hollow, climb the long flight of steps that you’ll see opposite and then turn left at the top. You will be walking along North Malvern Road and looking out for the Geopark Way that leads past the Tank Quarry picnic place and then back to the road. Take to the hills again at North Quarry and follow any path back to the centre of Great Malvern.
Worcester News recommends the use of OS Explorer Maps, your ideal passport to navigating the countryside. This walk is based on OS Explorer 190.