Meandering the Malverns: A day spent hiking the hills

It’s human nature to want to plan things out so we’re not caught off guard or end up getting in a pickle. However, we often over plan adventures and, for me, this takes away the excitement of the unknown.

I often do some initial research into what general area I want to explore and where’s best to park up – finding free parking is like finding gold. Once I know roughly where I want to head, I pin the parking on Google Maps and set off. From there… I wing it, kind of.

Winging it is fine to a certain extent, of course. You have to be careful. I judge how long I want to be out and about for and make sure I have enough food and water to last. It’s also very important to always know your route back. The great thing about pinning the parking on Maps is you can easily see where you started.

This is exactly what I did when I had a free day and wanted an adventure. I had recently picked up a book titled ‘501 days out in the UK and Ireland’ for 99p from a charity shop and I decided to close my eyes, flick through the pages and stop on a random page…

The Malvern Hills. I hadn’t heard of the area before and I wasn’t aware Worcestershire had a district of peaks, but it looked like a beautiful place to explore. I planned the two hour car journey, found some free parking (see below for details) and set off. I was parked up and had started the hike within three hours of opening that book. I chose Great Malvern as my starting point, which is a small town that lies at the foot of the hills.

Creating a striking border between Worcestershire and Herefordshire, the area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offers a varied landscape for hikers. There are plenty of routes to choose from, including family-friendly strolls to lower-level viewing points and steeper routes for serious scramblers going for the summits.

Opting for a route with the quickest ascent to the top, I followed the path up Happy Valley (and it certainly did make me happy) and up through Green Valley. Reaching the peak of Sugarloaf Hill was a hard slog in humid conditions, but the view across North Hill and Malvern below was worth the climb. Hiking south, I soon reached Worcestershire Beacon which stands tall at 425 metres. The trig point was crowded with explorers taking in the views, including one brave soul who had pushed a double pram up to the summit!

What I loved about this trip was having the ability to follow wherever the path led. I could see the many peaks ahead and I used the base of each as a check point to make sure I had enough water and energy to keep going. I ended up hiking a 17km circular route, covering Green Valley, Sugarloaf Hill, Worcestershire Beacon, Summer Hill, Jubilee Hill, Pinnacle Hill, Black Hill, and finally Herefordshire Beacon (also known as British Camp).

I was very lucky with the weather, with only a few light showers coming over the county throughout the day, and I even managed to enjoy an obligatory ice cream in the sun. A fellow hiker passed on the knowledge that the rocks of The Malvern Hills are among the oldest in England, producing exceptional spring water! I asked him if he was a geologist to which he responded, ‘Pfft, no. I just have a brain, Helen’.

Want to visit The Malvern Hills? Here are some useful tips.

Parking: Depending on where you want to start your hike, there are a number of car parks to choose from. Such as, North Quarry Car Park at the North point of the district and Little Malvern Car Park at the south end. I opted for free parking and headed to Wells Road, opposite the Rose Bank Gardens in Great Malvern. The bays filled up quickly, so make sure you get there early to grab a space.

Routes: There are many different routes to take across the hills, each of differing lengths and difficulties. If you’re not a confident hiker, make sure you research into which route you want to take. There are plenty of information boards dotted along the paths, which can help to guide you over the peaks.

Public transport: There are a few circular routes, but the layout of the peaks make it more suited for a linear track where you turn around and head back the way you’ve come. My original plan was to trek along from one end to the other and get the local bus back towards my car, however every bus stop I stumbled upon had ‘no scheduled departures’ displayed (perhaps because of COVID-19). Fortunately, my feet had one more hour left in them to get me back to my car, but watch out for this and factor it into your planning.