Malvern Hills Challenge 4 – Summer Hill


It’s some time since I ticked one of the Malvern Hills of my list.  Work has been full on recently leaving me exhausted when I get home but this week I seem to have turned a corner and for the first time in absolutely ages I have had energy to burn.  All the time spent in the office has left me feeling lethargic and in need of some gentle exercise.

Having mumbled to myself for some days now about starting to walk the hills again, this morning I happened to wake early and thought ‘Right, today is the day’.


It was strange setting out on my own at 8:20 this morning without having to make plans with others (I did leave a note for my son so he knew where I was!). It was strangely liberating and is a sign of how life if changing.  Having brought up two sons on my own I am used to being in charge, being organised, fitting in with a range of other demands,  planning so to just decide to do something is quite weird but wonderful. As you can see few others were as mad as me to go walking on the hills particularly as it quickly became apparent that the mist was lower that I had anticipated. I set out with the  intention to walk to the top of the Beacon, taking in Summer Hill on the way.  I wouldn’t normally stick to tarmac path but given the poor visibility I decided that this would be the sensible thing to do.


One of the things I am enjoying doing this challenge is the history of the area I am learning from researching things I see.  I smiled when I saw the marker above.  Really a gold mine how ridiculous, it’s probably just a local joke and the main reason for the marker is to show the way to various parts of the hills.  However, research on-line quickly proved me wrong.  Elizabeth I granted a mining charter for the hills although the cynic in me questions whether this was actually because there were precious metals or whether it was part of the royal monopoly on all mining. There was a Gold Mine recorded in 1633 on the spot above but it seems that if there was any gold then it was well below ground.  In the 1720s Daniel Defoe commented that the current generation was too lazy to mine any gold that might exist. More recently in the 1930s a scientific paper identified two sources of gold in the hills namely the red granite and the red granite pegmatite but in 1975 another thesis failed to find traces of gold in any rock samples.  There is now speculation that a well shaft near the old lime kilns is in fact a disused mine shaft but interestingly there seems little appetite for investigating it!


So back to the walk, as you can see it is quite gentle and sticking to the path meant that my mind wandered and cleared.  Part of the challenge is to help me get fit but it’s also about gaining confidence.  I have a whole raft of adventures I would love to undertake but they all involve leaps of faith travelling to new places, sometimes on my own, meeting new people.  Many people think I am a confident person but this is a misnomer.  I am confident at work in my comfort zone but I have little confidence outside of it.  I am learning to be comfortable with myself more, something I think comes with age, but I need to feel comfortable without my sons as a security blanket. I read somewhere recently that those people who get the most  from life and fulfil their goals are those that are prepared to put themselves in uncomfortable positions and I think this is true. I have had to go through some difficult times over the years bringing up my sons, loosing my sister, loosing Dad but they have all been situations imposed on me.  Now I am in a position where I can drift along through life as I am or I can choose to set myself some challenges – it has to be the latter.


Around here I saw a Green Woodpecker, identified by its distinctive undulating flight, a flash of yellow-green gave me an additional clue and then the its laughing call, which reminded me of their old English name of Yaffle.

As you can see as I slowly climbed higher so the mist got thicker.  Somewhere up ahead is the Beacon.  I wasn’t completely alone as I did meet two other walkers going the opposite way which left me wondering where they had walked from and what time they had set out!


It was at this point that I decided that the Beacon would not be achievable today! I wanted to be able to cross another hill off the list so I decided to leave the path and go up to the top of Summer Hill which I knew was to my right.  It isn’t far to the top although by now it was getting quite chilly and windy, causing me to have ear ache; I really must invest in a hat!.


So this is the top of Summer Hill and somewhere up ahead are stunning views of Malvern looking out across Worcestershire. Summer Hill is 1,253 ft above sea level, some 140ft shorter than the Beacon; so goodness knows how bad the visibility would have got if I had carried on with my original objective.


The walk down was even easier being downhill and still no sign of anyone else strangely! It was around here that I became transfixed by the cobwebs sparkling among the gorse and bejewelled with dew. Finally, as I neared the car park the sun started to try to break through the mist.


Some hour and half later I could see the top of the hills from my kitchen window and I briefly wondered if I should have delayed my walk.  But I don’t think so.  If I had waited then I would have lost the spontaneous feeling, I would have been negotiating other walkers and I would have missed the strange magical quality of the misty hills.









13 Comments Add yours

  1. You did a lot of thinking on your walk, didn’t you!

  2. rusty duck says:

    I do agree with pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. It’s always difficult but the sense of achievement having reached one of your goals is so worth it. And if you fail, at least you know you tried. Better that than drifting, always wondering what you could have done with your life.

  3. homeslip says:

    I forgot the Malverns are so high. Our climb to the top of St Martha’s Hill this afternoon at 525 feet above sea level seems insignificant in comparison. We did have glorious views though and in fact our walk entailed going up, a steep path down to the river, up again and finally a more gentle path down to our starting point so I guess in total we must have climbed over 1,000 feet.

  4. Christie says:

    For me walking in the early morning nourishes the spirit Helen. It is one of the greatest pleasures in life. The misty scenes are a delight. After reading your earlier accounts of walking the Malvern Hills I was quite excited to find reference to the Hills in a book I was reading recently from the Malmo series by Torquil MacLeod. He writes “In the distance the Malvern Hills rose serenely from the Severn plain. Not as high as the Lakeland fells, they had a beauty of their own. Gentler, softer, more homely, they were sculptured onto the landscape like an artwork.”

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Christie
      Thanks for the book reference I will check it out

  5. alison says:

    Well done you for getting out there and achieving what you did. It must have felt wonderful to walk, on your own, in the peace and quiet of those wonderful, early morning misty views. You made the right choice to start out early.

  6. Gail says:

    I live at 3700 ft. in Western North Carolina, USA. I awake quite frequently to fog/mist/foggy mist, and begin my day doing gardening chores completely cocooned in my own little world. I can’t explain it, but it is in these moments that I find great comfort.
    Thanks for sharing your hike.

  7. Brian Skeys says:

    It is strange Helen, for me having been born in the area how little I know about the history of the hills.
    Thank you for the info.
    I have always enjoyed the peace and serenity of the early mornings, which is just as well, for most of my working life I would be up at 5am. One of the benifits is that you do see more of the wildlife either early morning or evening time.

  8. I had a quick look at the Malvern Hills in September from Broadway Tower and thought of you. Your photos in this post, especially the spider web, really capture the essence of an autumn morning. Our night tempertures are finally dipping into the 50s, so we have a bit of mist in the early hours too.

  9. nanacathy2 says:

    What a lovely walk and I quite agree how hard it is to do something by yourself. I found walking without a son or a dog nigh impossible until I started taking photographs everywhere I went. Eating a meal in a restaurant or cafe was also impossible but a week ago I ate breakfast by myself in a hotel. I was so proud of myself! Good luck with your challenges.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Cathy
      I find eating alone hard, I usually take a book and when I stayed away back in the summer I asked the hotel if they minded me reading at the table and they very kindly put me on a table where I didnt feel too on view. My mother treats herself on a regular basis to a lunch at a local Italian resturant and looked blankly at me when I said I found this difficult! Saying that she is in her 70s and it is only since Dad died a year ago that she started to do this, she is relishing her independence.

  10. Really enjoyed this post, especially the ruminations about pushing one’s comfort zone as I am doing the same.

  11. Cathy says:

    Another challenge completed, albeit slightly less of one than you intended, and much thinking done – well done for sharing those personal thoughts, as always

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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