Worcestershire Jubilee Beacon

There is something quite fundamentally ancient about beacons.  For me seeing a beacon lit on the top of the Malvern Hills as part of a chain of 4200 across the Commonwealth to mark the Queens Diamond Jubilee was more powerful than a street party.  It is almost primeval and links us directly with our ancestors back as far as you can go.  Beacons were lit as warnings and as celebrations – a basic means of communicating long before the inventions of the 20th and 21st century.  The sense of anticipation was great, looking out from the top of Worcester Beacon towards Wales, trying to spot other beacons being lit- seeing fires burning in the distance and firework displays was quite magical.

I think this  is the first time the Beacon has been lit since we moved here in 2000.  We missed the Millennium Beacon when apparently around two thousand people attended.  It is hard to judge these things and the impact there will be on parking etc. We could have walked to the Beacon from my house but whilst I am physically strong and can dig for ever I’m not so good at walking long distances at the moment and so I decided we would drive up and see where we could park.  I managed to persuade my sons that we should leave home at 8pm although the Beacon wouldn’t be lit until around 10:15.  We are only a 15 minute drive from where we were going to park so they did think I was slightly paranoid but it turned out that our timing was spot on as the roads were already busy and there was a small but steady stream of people heading up the hills.  It took us about 45 minutes to reach the Beacon and as you can see from the photograph above a small number of people had already gathered.

Needless to say the indefatigable BBC had managed to get their broadcasting van virtually to the top. Not bad considering we were 425m above sea level, that’s 1395 ft and  the highest point in the area.  This also demonstrates how accessible the Malverns are.   We found a spot to sit and faced looking out towards Herefordshire and Wales beyond in the hope of seeing a fantastic sunset.  Friends joined us and you could sense more people around you.  It wasn’t until we decided to stand up so we could put the coats we were sitting on on that we became aware of the sheer number of people on top of the Beacon. My son’s friends texted that they had found a better vantage point and so we moved down a little.

You can see that the BBC van is now surrounded by people.  By now it was 10pm and anticipation was growing.  Were we facing the right way to see other beacons lit?  Would the beacons towards Birmingham and central England be lit before those on the other side of the hills towards Wales? Ripples ran through the crowd and then a cheer as the man with the lighting pole appeared.  We waited, there were some wafts of smoke, but then distraction from behind us as other beacons were spotted in the far distance.  A faint glow could be seen through the crowd in front of us and then some sparks above the heads.  Slowly but surely the glow grew and it became apparent just how strong the wind is on the top of the hills as the smoke and embers were blown towards the majority of the crowd.  At this point we were glad we had changed our viewpoint!  Then the flames took hold and suddenly the crowd in front thinned as people moved back from the incredibly heat as 20ft of wood ignited.  Cameras flashed, there were outbreaks of singing, cheering and even a ‘Happy Birthday’ to someone.

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(Apologies for the repetition of photos in the slide show from the rest of the post – it is beyond me how to just select some photos!)

It is interesting how hypnotic fires can be.  I know that the group I was with, many of them with scouting connections, are huge fans for large bonfires and so we stayed, moving closer as the crowds in front of us dispersed and people started to make their way home.  There was a steady stream of torchlight as people made their way down the Beacon taking a range of paths.  It got quieter and the fire, though fierce, was not as large as it had been.  It became more personal and intimate and even more special.  Sadly the cold that the heat of the fire had kept at bay started to creep back and the real world beckoned us back down the Beacon, home, and after a midnight cuppa, bed.



12 Comments Add yours

  1. Christina says:

    Brilliant post Helen; I do agree about bonfires or beacons being something primeval, I may or may not have posted about the bonfire in January near us; it is the one festival we always try to attend, the magnetism of the fire is amazing. Thanks for sharing your experience. Christina

  2. Fantastic post. I would love to see other beacons being lit from around the countryside. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  3. A wonderful sight. I was there on the Beacon for the silver jubilee in 1977, as a child and it was magical. Glad to see that the tradition continues.

  4. Alberto says:

    Hi! You took some magical pictures, it must have been beautiful being there in person! As Christina wrote here in Italy we have similar beacons on 6th january, to celebrate ‘la befana’ a kind of witch that brings sweets to the good children and coke to the bad ones. They make a kind of witch-scarecrow on top of the beacon and then they burn it. I guess burning the witch could have been misread on Diamond Jubilee ‘s in UK though! 🙂

  5. Anna says:

    That must have been such an amazing sight to see, I wish I could have been there. Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing them with us.

  6. Victoria says:

    Fantastic! Thank you so much for posting this despite being exhausted. It sounds like a magical experience and you’ve captured it really well. It makes you think this must have been what Britain was like in the time of the Druids.

  7. Arabella Sock says:

    Fantastic photos. I find the beacon lighting much more in tune with everything than the running around relaying Olympic torches that are a bit too bling. T

  8. hillwards says:

    Lovely experience, and I agree that this would probably be the one Olympic event that did not feel over-glitzed and glamorised. I must confess that we didn’t make it to our local beacon, although it is only a handful of miles from us – and we’d probably have seen it from our own hilltop as well. Great to read about yours instead, though.

  9. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Yvonne – NZ – How neat – did you toast marshmallows afterwards?? That’s what we do with bonfires when they die down! Been watching the celebrations on tele – the concert is scheduled for tonight – delayed obviously. Happy Queen(ie) I was in England for 25th and saw jousting in Kent -with Edward 8th – very exciting – and he said ‘hello’ to me!!

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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