Malvern Hills Challenge – 2: North Hill
To say I am euphoric, ecstatic and triumphant right now would be an understatement. Last week I introduced you to the challenge my eldest son set me to climb to the top of each of the hills/peaks which make up the Malvern Hills.
Today I decided to cross North Hill off the list. As its name indicates it is at the north end of the range, the opposite end to the first hill I climbed.
It is a very different walk to Raggedstone Hill. It is not as wooded and being a well walked hill for decades, even centuries, there is a broad hardcore path leading from North Quarry Car Park. As you can see the Gorse was flowering well around the lower slopes of the hill.
You enter some trees as you work you way up and every so often you come across one of these granite faces. The granite was quarried for building stone for a long time, although not any more, and older houses in the area have this grey tone to them.
The path I followed zig zagged along the side of the hill. Whilst this is kinder on the legs and the path is fairly even I did find the walk a bit repetitive as you go backwards and forwards along the same side of the hill.. From this side of the hill you overlook Malvern so as you get higher and higher the same houses get smaller and smaller.
The last time I walked this way was on a cold March morning when my mother and sons went to scatter Dad’s ashes. I thought I would be OK but suddenly I came across the bench we had used as a marker and felt somewhat overwhelmed. I stopped and sat and talked to Dad about what we were all up to, my worries and my achievements, I shed a tear but felt lots better.
Moving on the gorse is replaced by emerging bracken and signs to stick to the paths due to ground nesting birds. I had a dilemma at this point as I was still on the main path but I could sense that it was continuing to wend around the hill rather than to the top. So I decided to bite the bullet and set off up a smaller dirt track to what appears to be the summit (above).
By now the wind was getting quite strong and the bracken was replaced by fine grass which was billowing in the wind. Over the grass small birds hovered, which then dropped down to disappear amongst the scrub, presumably to their nests. Later I will see if I can identify them from my bird book. I found myself wishing I had a camera better than my point and click so I could zoom in on the birds.
Finally I reached the top and shouted with joy. However I couldn’t hear my own shout as the wind was so strong and I was struggling to stand upright. I can’t remember ever being in wind so strong. It certainly blew any cobwebs away and I could feel my face glowing in the onslaught. I managed to stand up right enough to take the four photos above which are a sort of circular view from the very top.
While at the top I looked to see what other routes there were down and noticed a couple of people slightly lower making their way downwards on a different path to the one I had taken. As going down is always easier than going up I employed the same approach as I did for Hill 1 and took a more direct route down. Luckily as you can always see Malvern from the top, a fact I lamented earlier, you can keep an eye on your location so you know which direction you should be heading in to find your car. The route was through the emerging bracken and incredibly pretty in a wild way. Much nicer than the walk up but I doubt I would have managed this route upwards. On the way I encountered a male pheasant who let me get very close until he suddenly, in true small brain pheasant way, panicked and rushed off into the bracken.
The route down was very quick and afforded a lovely view of the beacon, the highest peak. North Hill is the second highest with an elevation of 397m (1303 ft), it is the highest peak on the Worcestershire Way.
Being on my own I noticed more flora and fauna, As well as the pheasant I saw a Green Woodpecker, robins, the unknown birds from the summit, magpies, crows. I also spotted the plant above which was new to me but botanist friends on twitter tell me this is Umbilicus rupestris, Navelwort.
So that is Hill 2 ticked off the list and I am especially proud of myself as it is my first time walking on the hills on my own. I didn’t fall or get lost, instead I felt liberated in a strange way.
Roll on number 3