OVER one million people visit the Malvern Hills every year but on the first weekend of January many of them will be busy elsewhere, rummaging around in the sales, so it could be a good time to visit Worcestershire Beacon, the highest point in the county.

Even then, you’re unlikely to have the Beacon to yourself, but the other hills attract fewer walkers, especially End Hill, which tends to be quiet even on summer Sundays.

If you’re into peak bagging, you can tick off all six of the tops north of the Wyche on this short walk. None of the peaks arevery high, of course, and there are no difficulties with the terrain.

In fact, the Malverns offer some of the least demanding hill walking in Britain. It’s all too easy to take the hills for granted and under-value them, but in the right weather they are spectacular.

The name Malvern is thought to derive from the Welsh moel bryn, meaning bare hill, but in recent years that characteristic bareness has been threatened by the spread of scrub and woodland.

To combat this, Malvern Hills Conservators have reintroduced traditional grazing, and you will almost certainly encounter sheep and cattle on this walk so please remember to keep dogs under control at all times.

The Conservators’ aim is to keep the upper slopes largely clear of trees and scrub, producing grassy hilltops with scattered patches of bracken and just occasional shrubs.

Below the tops, gorse and scrub are allowed to dominate the midlevel slopes, with woodland lower down. This gives a great mix of habitats, appreciated by wildlife and people alike.

The walk description begins at the statue of Sir Edward Elgar at the top of Church Street. That Elgar took inspiration from the Malverns is well known, but he was only one of many artists, writers and composers to be inspired by these hills, from the 14th-century poet William Langland to the contemporary, Booker Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, whose Nocturnes, published in 2009, includes a story entitled Malvern Hills. At the end of the walk you'll pass the Unicorn Inn, where a blue plaque records that this was where C S Lewis, author of the Narnia Chronicles, met up with his hill-walking friends.

These included Lord of the Rings author J R R Tolkien, and George Sayer, who was head of English at Malvern College and Lewis’s biographer.

FACT FILE START Great Malvern; grid ref SO774459.

LENGTH Five miles/8km.

MAPS MAPS OS Explorer 190, OS Landranger 150, Harvey Superwalker Malvern Hills.

TERRAIN Grassland and woodland, moderately hilly.

FOOTPATHS Faultless.


PARKING Great Malvern town centre (alternatively, Tank Quarry or North Quarry).

PUBLIC TRANSPORT Frequent daily trains and buses serve Great Malvern; worcestershire.gov.uk/bustimetables or 01905 765765.

REFRESHMENTS Great Malvern. St Ann's Well Café on the hills is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

DIRECTIONS 1Starting at the Elgar statue at the top of Church Street, turn left on Belle Vue Terrace (A449/Worcestershire Way) to Rose Bank Gardens. Leave the gardens at a flight of steps and follow the Worcestershire Way to St Ann's Well. Pass in front of and then to the left of the well. At the next junction turn left, signed to the Beacon. After a few paces turn left again, at a junction by a bench, leaving the Worcestershire Way for another path, unsigned but well defined. Keep to this path at all subsequent junctions until it bends sharp right next to a bench perched at the top of a steep slope. Instead of turning right, keep going along the side of the hills on a narrower path.

Follow it to another junction, near the head of Rushy Valley, and go straight on, then straight on again at a cross-path, climbing quite steeply for a while before the path levels out and heads south. It soon starts climbing again, but very gently now, to reach a col between Summer Hill and Worcestershire Beacon.

2Turn left to a junction.

Worcestershire Beacon is to the right but it's worth first continuing south for a little way to climb Summer Hill. Return to the junction and then climb to the top of the Beacon, marked by a trig pillar and a toposcope.

Continue in a northerly direction from the summit – either by going roughly straight on over the top or by dropping down to find a more sheltered path on the west side. Either way, you will come to a broad col where a round, stonebuilt route indicator offers a choice of several paths.

3Take the path which climbs over Sugarloaf Hill and then descend to another col. Keep roughly straight on towards Table Hill. At the time of writing there is temporary fencing in place to confine grazing animals, but a temporary gate allows access. Take the left-hand path across Table Hill.

After crossing the top it bends to the right and leads directly to North Hill. Climb to the top then head in a north-easterly direction, towards Worcester. When you come to a small rock outcrop the path forks. Go to the left and descend due north towards North Malvern.

4Turn left when you meet a wide path; you're on the Worcestershire Way again now, albeit briefly. After 30m leave the Worcestershire Way, turning right on a path which initially descends before rising to a col between Table Hill and End Hill.

Turn right and head due north again, across End Hill, and then straight down at the far side to meet a wide path. Turn right and descend to West Malvern Road.

Turn right again, passing Tank Quarry and North Malvern Clock Tower, then take a bridleway at North Quarry. Go left when it forks (Alice Betteridge Walk), right at the next fork (North Walk) and left at another fork, then just follow the obvious route to St Ann's Road and 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 204.