VISITORS to the Malvern Hills could have the choice of two new visitor centres, if independent plans by different groups come to fruition.
One is for a visitor centre near the Wyche Cutting, the other for a centre in the grounds of a hotel in Great Malvern town centre.
The Wyche project will be the official visitor centre for the Geopark Way, a 109-mile trail running through the Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark.
It will be based in the Wyche Innovation Centre in Walwyn Road.
A planning application has already been submitted to Herefordshire Council.
The centre will use interactive technology displays to inform visitors about the history, geology and wildlife of the area.
It will include a small café run during the week by Jamboree, a local group that works with adults with learning difficulties, and at the weekend by commercial organisations on a profit-share basis.
The Geopark is working with Malvern Hills Conservators, Malvern Hills District Council, Malvern Spa Association, Malvern Civic Society and other organisations on the project.
The other project is for a centre to be called Gateway To The Hills at the Mount Pleasant Hotel, Belle Vue Terrace, in a collaboration between Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells and the hotel’s owners.
Bruce Osborne of the friends said the hills are in effect the country’s first national park, dating back to the founding of the conservators in 1884.
“One big difference between the hills and the formal national parks is that the Malvern Hills lack a visitor centre,” he said.
The Gateway will offer guided walks, books and maps, and will complement the town’s Tourist Information Centre.
“The hotel is ideally located as the link between the landscape of the hills and the townscape," said Dr Osborne.
“We believe this is a much better proposition than trying to re-establish a tea hut on the summit or a series of ad-hoc services scattered over a wide area.”