THIS one is for Worcester News readers and keen walkers Clive and Colin, from Hanley Swan and St John’s respectively. It’s a delightful walk with lots of variety packed into just a few miles.

Hanley Swan is a convenient place to start, and a charming place to return to after the walk.

It has a good looking pub on the village green and a shop which stocks a range of locally produced goodies, ideal for a picnic by Swan Pool, where well-placed benches allow you to share the site with dozens of contented, slightly overweight ducks.

Please resist the urge to feed them – they don’t need extra food and Swan Pool is susceptible to pollution from quantities of uneaten bread sinking to the bottom and decomposing there.

Local volunteers work hard to protect Swan Pool, and it’s thanks to their efforts that it’s in better condition now than at many times in its recorded history.

This walk is much more interesting and richer in woodland than a glance at the map might suggest. For instance, the top of Ox Hill is wooded, to the extent that the path that runs along it is still known as Wood Street.

In addition, Ordnance Survey hasn’t yet caught up with the tree planting over the last couple of decades, which has extended the size of Lower Arles Wood.

This planting would have struck a chord with many past owners of the Blackmore Estate, a huge landholding of which Lower Arles Wood was once part.

Probably the entire walk is on land that once comprised part of the Blackmore Estate and belonged to the Hornyold family, which has a long history in the county, pre-dating the Norman Conquest. In 1068, John de Hornyng Wold refused to submit to the Normans and was hanged for insurrection, but by 1315, the family had evidently joined the establishment, with John de Hornyold serving as High Sheriff of Worcestershire.

Succeeding generations built up the family estates until they owned 3,266 acres, including some of the wooded areas of Malvern Chase. In 1573, another John de Hornyold wrote that “the grete oaks were so thick together that a wayne [wagon] could not passe but in certain places”. However, he was also aware that the trees were threatened, complaining that Malvern Chase was being damaged by unrestricted felling to fire the kilns of the local pottery industry.

Some of his successors, when short of money, were reluctantly forced to sell off trees for felling, most notably Thomas Hornyold in 1830, who sold for £13,000 what was regarded as the very last remnant of the ancient forests of Malvern Chase. Others, however, were responsible not for selling trees but for nurturing them, especially Charles Hornyold (1846- 1906), who devoted much of his life to planting trees.

In 1919, the estate was broken up and sold in 170 lots, which included such diverse properties as Merebrook Farm, Blackmore Grange, Holy Well Spring, the Hornyold Arms in Malvern Wells, 200 acres of the Malvern Hills and the house which was later to become the hotel known as the Cottage in the Wood. A further sale of estate property took place in 1926, but members of the Hornyold family still live locally.


START The crossroad at Hanley Swan, on the B4209 between Hanley Castle and Malvern Wells, grid ref SO813428.

LENGTH Six miles/9.5km.

MAPS OS Explorer 190, OS Landranger 150.

TERRAIN Pasture, paddock, arable, woodland; flat, except for one brief descent.

FOOTPATHS One path is rather ovegrown with nettles, but most are excellent.


PARKING Hanley Swan.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT First 363 Worcester-Upton, First 42/42F/42G Malvern- Upton, Monday-Saturday, plus LMS 377 from Malvern on Saturdays only; etables or 01905 765765.



1 Walk east alongside the Upton road for 400m, then take a path signed to Gilberts End. Keep straight on at a junction (Picken End) and after half-a-mile you’ll meet a lane. Turn right, walk to the Welland road and cross to a bridleway opposite. Keep straight on at Mere Lodge, ignoring a footpath branching right. After passing Merebrook Farm, again keep straight on, ignoring a footpath bearing left.

2 When you see a stile on your left, turn right on a fenced path between paddocks. Continue in the same direction when you meet a track. Follow waymarks to the main road, turn right and then cross to a path at Common Farm, signed to Hayes Bank.

Unpromising at first, it soon improves and leads to Blackmore Wood. Go straight through the wood.

3 Exit Blackmore Wood at the far side, entering a large rectangular field, with Lower Arles Wood over to your right.

This wood is your next objective and access to it is from a stile in the far right field corner.

However, the right of way does not go directly to this point – it goes diagonally to the far left field corner instead, and then turns right along the field edge to reach Lower Arles Wood. Walk through the wood, with glimpses of a wetland on your right, then straight on through a more open area of young woodland.

4 Turn left at a marked junction and follow frequent waymarks, eventually climbing almost imperceptibly to meet the path which runs along Ox Hill. Turn right along this path, following it for 700m until it is crossed by another path. Turn right onto this; it’s easily missed but you’ll find it a few paces after a bench and a stile on the left. Cross a field and then keep straight on downhill.

5 After passing Home Farm, take a path on the left. Follow waymarks through meadows and remnant orchards, then through a churchyard to a road. Cross to a path almost opposite, which runs across a field to meet another path. Turn right, keep straight on at a junction after a footbridge and proceed to Hanley Swan.