Malvern Hills Challenge – 3: British Camp


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


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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


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.


Malvern Hills Challenge – 1: Raggedstone Hill


In response to my fidgeting the other day my eldest son offered me a challenge – to climb to the top of each of the Malvern Hills.  Now to many people this really isn’t much of a challenge, after all they are hardly the Scottish Munros.  However, I really don’t do enough exercise and have been saying for a while that I need to get fit.  I live on the lower slopes and despite moving to the area in 2000 I have really only been up a couple of the more frequently visit hills; there are 16 hills in total although some of them are almost on top of each other.

So that’s one down, 15 to go and I think the next one will be at the other end of the chain: North Hill.  I went up this hill a few months back as it overlooks my mother’s house and we scattered my father’s ashes here so the walk may be  a little poignant but on that day we didn’t get to the very top so there is something to aim for.  Today I have been to get my resident’s parking permit for the hills, a snip at £3 per year, and some maps so I am all set.

Ghosts of the Past


We had planned to go for a walk at Croome Park on Boxing Day but like so much else it was closed due to flooding.  So instead we went for a walk on the Malvern Hills which are only a 5 minute drive from us.    I love trees especially at this time of year when their winter skeletons are so beautiful so we parked up at Earnslaw and went for a walk through the woods up to the ridge and back down.  I didn’t fancy getting blown away walking along the ridge.


We recently discovered that there used to be a grand house just above Earnslaw Quarry and it wasn’t until 1884 that the Malvern Conservators bought up the land on the hills on the order of the government in order to preserve it for future generations and allow the local people use  of the hills.


I particularly enjoy walking in this part of the hills as you stumble upon old walls that presumably were previously boundary walls or maybe garden features.  It appeals to the romantic in me, the person who was spellbound by The Secret Garden.  The walls also fuel my growing enthusiasm for moss and lichen.


Since starting to dabble in botanical art I find that I look more closely at plants and I suppose this is also partly due to the amount of photographs I take for the blog.  I find myself drawn to moss and lichen more and more, they are so beautiful and so tactile.  Maybe one day I might find time to try to learn which one is which.

As you can see from the photographs there were not many people, that is until we got to the ridge when it was like rush hour.  I really don’t understand why people stick to the top of the hills, they have so much more to offer.  I agree that the views are amazing; across to the Black Hills of Wales in one direction and to the Bredon Hills in the Cotswolds in the other.  However, for me walking along the tarmac path which leads from the big car parks along the ridge loses the sense of exploration that I used to enjoy as a child walking in the Beech Woods in Finchampstead in Berkshire.  The excitement of sliding down a slope and falling into a pile of leaves, of climbing a tree, of wondering at the vastness and shape of the trees none of these things can be experienced when walking, with everyone else, along a pavement along the ridge.


From the top we looked out towards Worcester and could see clearly the extent of the flooding.  You can’t usually see the River Severn very clearly from the top of the hills but there was no doubt of its course on Boxing Day and it explained why a visit to Croome Park was a non-starter; even if it had been opened we would have struggled to get to it.

Having admired the view we left the day trippers behind and descended back down the hills through the woods and home.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections


This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is along the theme of reflections.

I was really pleased to see this theme as it made me go for a trip up the Malvern  Hills which are only a 5 minute drive from so that I could visit Earnslaw Pool.  It is a former quarry and very deep.  I love it as there is a wonderful atmosphere about the place.  You can only approach from one narrow end of the pool, the rest is surrounded by high walls from the former quarry.

This weekend due to the cold we have had the pool was frozen although the ice was beginning to melt.  I couldn’t get right to the pool but I took the above photo by the entrance.  I found the process fascinating since when I looked down into the water the reflections of the trees weren’t that clear instead my eyes were drawn through the clear water to the decaying leaves lying on the bottom of the pool.  It was only when I looked at the screen on my camera that I saw that the camera had seen the view differently and really picked up the colours of the sky and trees above.

I also liked the way that the trees growing up the steep side of the quarry seemed to be slightly distorted in the reflection they appear to be growing at different angles which is not the case.

Taking this photograph was an interesting lesson in how cameras work.


A Wet Easter

Whilst I have been looking forward to a long weekend in order to potter in the garden and tackle the allotment (note the difference in the choice of verbs!) I have to admit I am relieved we have had so much rain this weekend.

Unlike my gardening friends in the South and South East we are not currently facing a hose pipe ban but needless to say the dryness has begun to tell and the water butts were worryingly empty.  All the talk at the allotment has been about whether the council will turn the water off and what we will do if this happens.  I for one think if the council do turn the water off due to the excessive costs now the site is fully occupied it will  be because of people wasting water through needless over watering  but I will save that rant for another day.

Saturday was a very wet day here in Malvern, although no rain was forecast!! Virtually all day we had that fine drizzle that seems to eat into you without you really realising – I think this is what the Scots call ‘smirr’ well according to Ian Rankin in Black & Blue it is.  It was one of those days that resulted in me pacing around not achieving anything and then getting cross.  I started well with the weekly shop and I painted two doors but then I had the afternoon to fill and I am terrible at doing nothing.  So I sewed.  By the time my youngest came home from work I was desperate for some fresh air so we went for a quick walk up the Malvern Hills.  It had to be quick as the sun was setting and we hadn’t taken a torch!!  (see top picture)

Sunday was a better day.  The sun was shining and I started with a couple of hours at the allotment.  I forgot to say that I had spent a couple of hours there on Friday as well.  Anyway, the allotment is really coming on.  It is beginning to look neat and tidy and there are crops appearing.  I sowed carrots, parsnip, salsify, rocket and some lettuce.  The pakchoi and spinach sown last week has started to germinate.  The peas and broad beans are looking sturdy and all the potatoes are in.  I cleared another bed of last year’s debris, top dressed with some of the free green waste and planted another gooseberry bush.  I have been planting fruit bushes along one side of the plot to make a loose wind break.  Before I left I harvested my very first crop of rhubarb from the site.  I have waited a year to harvest this, letting the plants establish themselves but this weekend I brought home a huge bunch which I made into a crumble.  I also harvested the last of the parsnips and another bunch of purple sprouting broccoli – wonderful.

The weather stayed fine in the afternoon allowing me to plant out lots of recent acquisitions.  With all the rain we have forecast for the coming week I wanted to get them in so they got a good start.  In went two epimediums, a primula, a hydrangea, a peony, some nepeta and lots of digitalis ferruginea which I have grown from seed.

My handiwork is supervised these days by the cat, Maisie, who I consider to be the under- gardener but as you can tell from her expression considers herself the supervisor.  She loves it when we are in the garden, stalking us and becoming quite a distraction.  Sadly I am coming to the conclusion that I may have to give up on having good displays of grasses as she seems to be eating them all but never mind.

Monday and the rain was back – more smirr.  Plans for a visit to the local flea market were curtailed so we ended up going to a DIY superstore.  Not an original idea but we did get some handles we have been meaning to get for months so not a complete waste of a morning and we did have a laugh.  I do miss going out with my sons now they are adults with busy lives so I relish any outing however mundane.  More rain in the afternoon although the greenhouse proved a useful refuge for a while until I ran out of space.  I am going to buy one of those plastic cold frame/grow houses tomorrow.  So I retreated and continued sewing.  I have now finished the second phase of the sewing project – only the bloomers and bonnet to go.  In case you are wondering these aren’t for me but are a replacement set of clothes for a soft toy belonging to my mother which I made her originally some 20 years ago.  It’s the first sewing I have done in years but I am loving it and am all fired up to start dressmaking again.

A wet Easter weekend maybe but a quietly satisfying one.