Sunday, May 20, 2007

Malvern Hills

Sir Edward Elgar loved to ramble in the Malvern Hills, a short distance from Worcester, where he was born on June 2, 1857. The hills rise dramatically from the surrounding plain, and have been occupied since the Iron Age, when well-defended hill forts were built on the summits of the southern hills. At left is a view of the hills from the A449 from Worcester to Great Malvern, where we started our Sunday morning walk in the footsteps of Elgar. The photograph is taken through the windshield of our Rover.

We parked the car in Great Malvern and in less than an hour walked up to the highest point in the Malvern Hills, the Worcestershire Beacon (1395 feet). The hills are popular with Sunday walkers, and we found ourselves sharing the footpaths with the Malvern area Lions Club, out for a group ramble in the hills. The ascent from Great Malvern is initially quite steep, but the walking is never too hard. At the summit of the Worcester Beacon is a viewfinder, or topograph, which shows you what you're looking at in all directions. To the east, we thought we could make out Broadway Tower, in the Cotswolds, but most of the views were obscured by a typical English haze. The topograph was erected in 1897 to commemorate the 60th year of Queen Victoria's reign.

Sugarloaf, Table, and North Hills

From the Worcester Beacon, we walked back north to the top of North Hill, where we sat an ate our lunch of a baguette, Somerset brie, olives, and Cadbury chocolate. In the photograph above, you can see North Hill to the right, Table Hill in the middle, and Sugarloaf Hill to the left. While we ate our lunch, a pair of skylarks wheeled about overhead, serenading us with their slightly hectic song. In the photograph at left, Clara is eating a garlic-stuffed olive, with the Worcestershire Beacon in the background.

Malvern Priory from North Hill

After lunch, we headed back down to Great Malvern, stopping along the way at a hillside cafĂ©, St. Anne's Well, for a pot of tea. In Great Malvern, we paid a short visit to Malvern Priory—another medieval monastic church, like Tewkesbury Abbey, that was converted into an Anglican parish church after the Dissolution in 1538. The stout Norman columns in the nave date to 1089, but the rest of the church dates to a major 15th-century renovation. The church contains some lovely 15th-century stained glass, including a "Magnificat" window donated to the priory by Henry VII. In the photograph at left, you can see the Norman columns and the 15th-century rebuilding, including the lovely coffered ceiling and great east window (with its original 15th-century glass).

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