Path

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“But the beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed by destinations” – Welsh poet Gwyn Thomas

Having to some degree drifted through life for the last 10  years or so in the same job, the same house and with little variation in my daily life or past-times 2016 has presented me with a number of new paths to traverse; some more tortuous than others.

The photographs on this post represent what I consider the most beneficial new path I have travelled this year.  As I have posted before my eldest set me a challenge to walk to the top of all the peaks of the Malvern Hills.  I have to admit to not having completed the challenge, there is one peak not ticked off, but the challenge has had unexpected benefits.  It has given me an appreciation of the joys of walking on the hills, well to be honest just walking in the countryside.  I particularly like walking first thing in the morning or early evening when it is quieter and the wildlife is more active. I am so lucky to live where I do that I can walk on the nearby common in the evenings during the summer – a fantastic way to de-stress after work.

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Work has been, and continues to be, a more uncertain path.  My job has changed significantly over the last year. There have been new challenges, some I feel I have risen to well and others not so much, my new role continues to be developed and it will probably be some months before it is all sorted and confirmed.  In the meantime I go through periods of extreme anxiety and self-doubt and have had to try to learn to manage these as best as I can.

This anxiety has impacted on other aspects of my life, and if I am honest I think I am still struggling with grief from losing my father just over two years ago.  In terms of my preferred past time of gardening it feels as though the path has been blocked for some time and I have tried various alternative routes around or over the blockage but none of them have been successful. Just as when you try to avoid a traffic jam by going on a long circuitous route only to find yourself behind the same car, I have realised that patience is what is needed.

However, one of my diversions has resulted a lovely new destination.  In need of an escape from my unfulfilling pastime activities I joined my local Embroiders Guild.  I have been welcomed by a lovely group of ladies and my enjoyment for sewing, particularly embroidery, has been truly reignited. Whilst the creativity of sewing is rewarding it is also the rhythm of embroidery, it is a wonderful calming experience.

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With 2017 just around the corner I now feel like I am moving forward more positively, more self-aware and with a new determination to do and achieve what I want to.

This post was written in response to the weekly wordpress photo challenge with the theme of ‘path’ – it wasn’t the post I intended but sometimes it is better to go along the unexpected path.

 

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Malvern Autumn Show 2016

Old Court Nursery
Old Court Nursery

I am so lucky to live where I do and days like today just remind me of this.  My eldest and I decided at very short notice that we fancied going to the Malvern Autumn Show.  It is literally a 5 minute drive from home so we were able to arrive as the second day of the show was opening and beat the crowds.

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I haven’t been to the Autumn Show for some years, there always seems to be something clashing with it.  We stopped first in the Harvest Pavilion where the serious showing happens.  As you can see we have everything from vegetables through to dahlias.  To the other side of this pavilion is the ‘Open Competition’ for a whole range of plants such as succulents, alpines, foliage, roses etc.  I have quite a few pics of these as I have been thinking for a few years now of entering.  We sussed out the competition so now I have a good idea of the standard I am aiming for.

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Whilst I might be thinking of entering an aeonium or two I really take my hat off to those growers who can produce a trug of vegetables like these – sheer perfection.  I would be chuffed to get 4 ripe tomatoes let alone 5 matching ones or even a whole trug of matching perfection.

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Its not all competitive vegetable and flower growing; the show is very much a local country show that has grown over the years.  Elsewhere there are pigs being paraded, as well as sheep, cows, rabbits and goats  but our preference was to watch the agility dogs and later the gun dogs who were having a lovely time showing off.

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But much as I could watch the dogs for ages the plants inevitably call and we found ourselves in another pavilion which focussed on growing your own (I think).  As you entered there was this display by the National Dahlia Society which I thought was pretty special.  It really shows how dahlias can be used to create a wonderful exotic look – the colour seems a little blown on this photo possibly due to the lighting in the marquee.

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Whilst the dahlias were impressive I was quickly distracted by the Jacques Armand display.  My poor son was suffering from my bulb addiction as I had already bought a considerable number of bulbs from Rose Cottage who had been relocated to the Produce Pavilion having lost their marquee in the wind yesterday. There is always something interesting to buy and between the two nurseries I came away with a good haul of tulips for the front garden, some more colchicums – Nancy Lindsay and Dick Trotter, a large Scilla and some punky looking muscari.

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At the far side of the show ground to where we parked we came to the nurseries.  The number of nurseries both inside and out have grown considerably over the 15 years I have been going to the show.  There is now a reasonable number exhibiting inside under cover with large displays.  I was really pleased for my friend Helen Picton who was awarded another Gold for her display of asters.  I was also rather entranced my the Tale Valley display as it combined all the plants I love; ferns and bulbs and lots of wonderful foliage – food for thought.

 

 

RHS Malvern Spring Show 2016

The UCARE Garden
The UCARE Garden

I can’t remember the last time I went to RHS Malvern Spring Festival and it wasn’t freezing cold and/or raining.  This year we were treated with a beautiful sunny day which really bought the plants to life especially in the show gardens.  I took my mother this year as she is really getting into gardening and wanted to look at greenhouses.  She isn’t that keen on the showgardens so we didn’t spend much time looking at them but I did spot a few that I really liked.  Of the ones I saw The UCARE Garden was my favourite.  I really liked the planting with the orange of the Dryopteris erythrosora picking up on the orange flowers of the euphorbia and the rust of the water feature.  Blue, being a complimentary colour, works very well with the orange and whole is contained by the box edging with its frothy fresh spring leaves.  The garden won a silver-gilt and I believe lost points over some of the planting but given that the season has been so cold until now its a wonder that the designers had the material they did to work with.

The Sunken Retreat
The Sunken Retreat

I was also attracted to The Sunken Retreat again because of the oranges but I also liked the clean lines of the hard landscaping and the sunken seating area (sorry no photo) which means the plants are at eye line.  My mother really didn’t like this garden instead she preferred this one

The Water Spout
The Water Spout

Her reason was that she could see herself in this garden, there would be things to do and lots of different plants to look at.  She felt the others were very set pieces with plants that were all flowering now but what would they be like in a months time and they were too precise and designed for her.  I have to admit that I probably would be bored with the two gardens I liked but as I said to Mum they show you have to combine plants to get good effects – she still wasn’t convinced!

Fernatix
Fernatix

Before the showgardens our first stop was the floral marquee which is always my favourite part of the show.  I think there might have been less nurseries this year as it felt very spacious even when we returned later in the day and the showground was full. Next year I think I will go to the show on my own as in recent years I have always been with someone and I never look properly as I am too busy talking or pointing things out.  Anyway, I did see some of my favourite nurseries.  I always love Fernatix’s stand but then I would be quite happy with a garden that was all ferns; they are just so elegant and create a wonderful atmosphere.

Hardys Plants
Hardys Plants

Hardys Plants stand looked wonderful as ever but a particular achievement this year as Rosie Hardy is in the middle of creating her very first RHS Chelsea Show Garden which I am really looking forward to seeing.

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I was also taken with this eye-catching display; it was nice to see a display which made you look up.  But then again I always love bulbs and I was particularly taken with Tulipa Rosy Bouquet which I can see bringing together the white lunaria and cerise rhododendron in my garden.

Tulip Rosy Bouquet
Tulip Rosy Bouquet

So those are my highlights from RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2016.  I think the show continues to improve year on year and having visited a number of similar events around the UK I still think it is the best.  Its hard to explain why,  but trying to put aside it closeness to home, there is just such a nice atmosphere and it always seems friendly with nurserymen happy to are information and advice.

Malvern Hills Challenge 9: Chase End Hill

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Today I bagged another of the Malvern Hills – Chase End Hill at the southern end of the Malvern Hills.  This is the very last hill in the chain and reaches a mere 624ft (191m) but I think this walk was my favourite to date.

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We started our walk in Whiteleaf Oak which is a small sprawling hamlet.  I wouldn’t have known where to park or where to start the walk from by luckily my eldest had been camping on the side of the hill a few weeks before so knew exactly where to park.  He was keen to come along as Chase End Hill was the last of the Malverns for him to cross off.  The walk up the lower part of the hill is steady and overlooks sloping fields with horses and wonderful views with the fresh green of new leaves beginning to take over from the gaunt bare branches.  Then you are faced with a short rather steep climb which you can see in the photograph above.

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Looking back up the hill this is the view in front of you which is a little daunting but encouraging as you know you are very nearly there.  It was a surprisingly quick climb.

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As you would expect from the top of any hill the views were wonderful.  Above is looking back along the Malverns to the next in the chain which is Raggedstone Hill and the first I climbed back at the end of May 2015.  If you look very carefully to the left you can just see the Obelisk at Eastnor.  I spent most of the time morning coverting the houses you can see at the base of the hill.

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Looking the other way and you can just spot May Hill near Gloucestershire.  Locally Chase End Hill is called the Gloucestershire Beacon.  I don’t think this is its official name as I can find no supporting evidence for this and the name probably has come about because of the rivalry between the three counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, all of which can be seen from the top of the Malverns.  With people living on the side of the hills either living in Herefordshire or Worcestershire it is only natural that the smallest hill should be the Gloucestershire Beacon!

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Whilst the climb up had been nice it was the walk down the other side which was really special, mainly because of the sheets of bluebells whose scent filled the air.  I am used to seeing bluebells on the side of the Malverns but generally amongst the trees and lower down so to see such large colonies in such an exposed location surprised me.

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This part of the walk felt more like walking through some sort of 18th century landscape than a walk on the Malvern Hills.  I have tried to research this hill but there is little information.  However ‘Chase’ is a common name in this area and research shows that it was the name given to the ancient forest which covered this area all the way to the Severn River and out towards Hereford and is recorded as far back as Edward I. The land is inextricably linked with royal history particularly that of the Plantagenents who fought many a battle along the Welsh Marches, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.  King John is buried in Worcester Cathedral which is no more than 30 minutes drive away and at one time part of the Chase belonged to Anne Neville daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was key in the War of the Roses.  Anne went on to marry Richard III.  As this is my favourite period of English history I find the associations particularly interesting.

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On the lower slopes heading back down the hill the bluebells were joined by daffodils.  I am convinced these are wild native daffodils, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, or Lent Lily.

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Not the best photograph I know but good enough for me to look it up in my wild flower book and convince myself it is indeed the wild daffodil.  Hardly surprising as we are not far from the Golden Triangle based around Dymock which is home to the Daffodil Way.

All in all a very nice walk.  I only have 7 hills left to tick off but some of them I should be able to do in one walk.  Of course there are many people who walk the length of the hills in one go but I want to make sure I go to the top of each hill and the paths that run the length of the hills often bypass some of the peaks.  I think I have 3 or 4 more walks to do.

For the rest of my Hills reports click on the tab ‘Malvern Hills Challenge‘ along the top of the box in the side bar.

Malvern Hills Challenge 7: Perseverance Hill

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Finally a weekend when a walk on the hills first thing was a real possibility and strangely after temperatures all week of -5-2C this morning the temperature was 12C, how very strange.  Since my last walk I have wanted to tick Perseverance Hill off my list as I was annoyed that I hadn’t pushed myself that little bit more last time.  So back to the Quarry car park and arriving at 8:45 it was hardly surprising that the car park was empty.  I find the starkness of the granite stone fascinating.  I am sure someone who knows about geology would be able to tell me lots about these stones but I really just love the colours and forms.

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It’s a gentle walk from the car park along broad pathways.  Despite the car park being empty there was no shortage of runners, walkers and cyclists.  I passed by Jubilee Hill along the lower path (above) and continued onwards from where I left off last time.

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Perseverance Hill ahead and as you can see plenty of people around for first thing on a January morning.  One lady who you can just spot in the distance, motored past me at a fair rate of walking and was positively euphoric at being able to get out on the hills after all the wintery weather we have had.  I did stop and take some photos which is why she is so far ahead but given her likely age she really was inspiring.

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Perseverance Hill is 1,066ft (325m) above sea level and slightly shorter than Pinnacle and Jubilee Hills.  From the top you can look across the edge of Malvern and beyond.  My house is down there. I tried to put an arrow on the photo but haven’t got the patience to do it.  If you follow the railway line from the hill, and look for the two red garage doors near the railway then my house is sort of diagonally between the two red garage doors.

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Moving to your right across the golf course you come to the Three Counties Showground where the RHS Spring Festival will be held in May.

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From the top of Perseverance Hill you look across to the Beacon, in the dip before the Beacon is the Wyche Cutting with car parking, a cafe and a pub.  The walk from the Wyche Cutting, along Perseverance, Jubilee and Pinnacle Hills to the Malvern Hills Hotel, just before British Camp is one of the most popular.  Probably because the walk is pretty easy going with just enough small peaks to make you feel you have achieved something and of course there is a pub at both ends.  It is definitely a walk I can see I will be doing once I have finished this challenge.

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It is one of the benefits of this challenge that I have discovered parts of the hills completely new to me and I really like this area partly because it isn’t too arduous to get to the top of the peaks but also for the trees.  I have had a fascination with tree skeletons since I was a child and I still have some drawing pads with ink outlined trees drawn probably when I was in my early teens.

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I really love the textures and lines of the bare trunks and branches, I can see how this image could easily translate into a drawing.

So that 7 of the 16 named hills completed and ticked off my list.  I think the next ones will be those beyond British Camp going towards Eastnor.  Coming out of the car park I was trying to decide whether to go left or right, it didn’t matter as I have to go round the hills either way, when a posse of some 30 road cyclists appeared all out for their Sunday morning cycle – decision made I went the opposite way!

Malvern Hills Challenge 5 & 6 – Pinnacle and Jubilee Hills

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I keep wondering if I have forgotten something important for Christmas as I seem to have lots of wonderful luxurious free time this week.  After surviving the annual brussel sprout scrum in the supermarket it struck me that there was a beautiful blue sky and the view of the hills from my kitchen window was very enticing.  Time to tick off another hill for my Malvern Hills Challenge and maybe work off the mince pies I have already consumed.

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I’m not approaching the challenge with any sort of plan.  I just set off, park the car in one of the car parks and see where my feet take me.  Today, I dug out my new walking boots – well they were new some 4 years ago but today I actually wore them.  I parked up at Gardiner’s Quarry and followed the path upwards.  I quickly reached the first peak (top photo) and despite the wind blowing a gale and my fingers feeling like ice cubes I decided to see if I could cross off a second summit.

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As you can see the second summit wasn’t too far so very doable. This is Pinnacle Hill which is 357m (1171ft) above sea level.  It was an easy walk, although I needed my beanie and  hood up because of the wind and cold – probably around 5C (41F)

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There’s not much to tell you about Pinnacle Hill except there are two possible Bronze age burrows on the summit and breathtaking views in all directions across to the Bredons in East and the Black Hills of Wales to the West.

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The summit you can see in the distance is the Beacon which I haven’t ticked off my list yet but it is the one hill that I have been up a number of times over the years.   The yellow sticks you can see to the left of the photo are an electric fence which is there to control the sheep.  The Malverns have been grazed by livestock, generally sheep and cattle, for centuries with the exception of when foot and mouth was prevalent.  This being the case walkers are used to having to negotiate gates and keeping their dogs on leads in prescribed areas.

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So having done two summits, why not do another one and in my sights is the lowest of the three hills you can see above.  This is Jubilee Hill, beyond is Perseverance Hill and then the Beacon.  As you can see the Malverns benefit from well established paths so any one can easily access them.

Jubilee Hill was named in 2002 by the Malvern Conservators to mark the Queens Golden Jubilee, and the plaque was unveiled by the Duke of York. The hill is 327m (1073ft) above sea level.

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Having reached the top of Jubilee Hill I pondered continuing to Perseverance Hill but decided that it was probably a little ambitious given this was the first real exercise I had done since October.  Hopefully sometime in the next week there will be another dry day and I can tick Perseverance off the list.

On my return home I consulted my map of the hills and was disappointed to discover that the first summit is not one of the named hills so instead of crossing 3 off the list, I have only crossed 2 off. In fact it is the only unnamed hill on the map below and I feel quite cheated! There are 16 named hills plus this one, so I have 10 to complete if I want to complete the challenge my son has made of go to the top of all the hills in a year.  The deadline is the 29th May 2016 and if I am really lucky he will take me to try to spot some glow worms that he knows the location of somewhere on the hills.

You can access my other reports here

1: Raggedstone Hill
2. North Hill
3. British Camp
4. Summer Hill

 

 

Malvern Hills Challenge 4 – Summer Hill

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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’.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malvern Hills Challenge – 3: British Camp

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Its been some weeks since I posted an update on my challenge to climb all the hills that make up the Malvern Hills.  Life has been incredibly demanding and tiring recently with the retirement of my boss of 15 years and a range of meetings one on top of the other at the end of the academic year.  But today some pressure was lifted and my personal future is a little clearer and I feel a sense of contentment returning. But I needed some air, some space and so finally I managed to find time and energy to climb hill number 3

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My youngest son also felt in need of some fresh air and exercise so we decided to cross one of the higher hills off my list – British Camp.  Whilst it is one of the highest in the range, you actually park very near the top so apart from these steep stairs not far from the car park, the climb isn’t that challenging and takes no time at all.  You can understand why it is one of the most popular peaks in the chain.

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I realised that so far my walks have been in the evening and they have benefited from the wonderful evening light on the top of the hills.

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British Camp is also known as the Herefordshire Beacon – the Worcestershire Beacon is at the other end of the chain and is where we enjoyed a wonderful evening during the diamond jubilee and is the summit in the middle of the photograph below.

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The reason the hill is called British Camp is because it is the site of a 2000 year old Iron Age fort and you can start to see the ramparts as you come close to the summit.

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Archaeological digs on the adjacent Midsummer Hill have led the experts to think that this was not just a defensive site but a settlement for around 4000 people for a period of 400-500 years. With the coming of the Romans the site was abandoned although the Romans gave the hills one of its legends.  Apparently the Ancient British chieftain Caractacus made his last stand at British Camp but there are some that dispute this legend since the historian Tacitus’s record of Caractacus’s capture states :

quote Caracticus played his final card and chose a site for a battle so that the approaches, the escape routes, everything, was awkward for us and to his sides advantage. On one side there were steep hills. Where ever approaches were gentle he piled boulders into a sort of rampart. In front of him flowed a river of doubtful fordability and squadrons of armed men were in position on the defences. quote

 

For those who know the area it is hard to imagine that the River Severn would have ever reached the foot of the Hills and even the argument that it might have changed its course is tenuous but it is a nice story.  The legend also says that Claudius was so impressed with Caractacus when he appeared in Rome that he gave him his own villa.

 

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Later there was a Norman motte fortification at the top of British Camp and if you look along the ridge line you will see the Shire Ditch which runs along the hills from North to South

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British Camp also benefits from having the Malvern Hills Hotel adjacent to its main car park.  A great pub with great food which is always popular.

So that’s Hill 3 ticked off the list, not sure which one I will do next.

 

RHS Malvern Spring Festival Show Gardens – Some Highlights

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I have been attending RHS Malvern Spring Festival, as it is now known, for 15 years and over this time there has been a slow increase in the quality and number of show gardens.  It is often touted as a show that attracts those garden designers who are putting their toe in the show garden water and I think this year there was a distinct improvement in the quality of planting and design on previous years.  It wasn’t many years ago when I used to flinch at the planting which had bare soil showing, completely out of line with the squeeze them in abundant planting that is required of a good show garden.

My favourite garden was Constraining Nature by Kate Durr Garden Design.  She won the Best Festival Garden award and a gold medal, not bad for a first showing.  The Festival Gardens are designed by new comers who receive a £3000 bursary to support the build and advice from various experts.  I loved the textures in her planting (top photo) particularly the shady area at the back of the garden.

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I like the movement of the tufts of grass, not sure which it is, and the box balls.  For someone who isn’t keen on topiary I was interested to see quite a few of the gardens using them to provide structure and then in filling with seasonal interest.  Definitely an idea I think I will take forward.

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As per the last few years the show garden by Villaggio Verde stole the show and you have to admire the ambition of the designer.  This isn’t just a frontage with scaffolding or the like behind it but a garden you can walk around the outside of and peer through a wrought iron gate to see the baskets of pelargoniums hanging on the wall.  The only down side was the grey skies which threatened rain all day and dispelled the idea we were somewhere in Andulusia. Unsurprisingly this garden won Best Show Garden.

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This garden, As Mad as a Hatter, by Gary Bristow was quite appealing.  However although I loved the textures I would have preferred a bit of cross over between the two areas.  I think a few oranges in the purple side would have lifted it and vice versa but I am sure there is some theme idea behind it.

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I quite liked the planting and the clean lines of Out of Darkness by Lisa Burchill and Robin Ideson which won a silver. I suspect the dead moss square seats may have had something to do with the silver. However, as someone who has a preference for foliage over flowers I like the combinations of not only leaf shape but also the shades of greens, yellow and purple in the variegation.

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I was surprised at how many ideas I came away with this year.  In the past at Malvern the show gardens have some interesting plants but I rarely feel inspired by the planting combinations and never about any sort of landscaping/structure.  But this year, the Cornerstone garden, by Pip Probert and Gareth Wilson, showed a renewed interest in alpines and presented them in such a way that I can see being possible to recreate even in the most modern urban garden – so a rockery is no longer needed to grow these delights. Again I think this is something I might try to replicate in a future garden.

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The garden is not all just alpine troughs but on the other side there is this delightful cottage style garden – a real winner from my perspective.

I really enjoyed the show gardens this year and it is good to see so much good quality planting. I hope the standard continues to improve and maybe one year soon Malvern will start to get the same excellent reputation for its show gardens as it already does for its nurseries.

The RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from 7th – 10th May – its a good day out, why not go