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A Seat with a View

They’re a place for a welcome rest while climbing the Beacon, or perhaps somewhere to pause and take in the view. The Hills have hundreds of benches, with many of them dedicated to the memory of a loved one or celebrating a special anniversary.

Some benches are more popular than others. One of the most popular seems to be close to the Wyche Cutting on the Herefordshire side of the hills. On a sunny afternoon, its inevitably occupied by a person, or group of people, admiring the view and soaking up the beauty of the area.

In all, there are believed to be 360 benches dotted around the Hills, and The Conservators have decided its time to take stock of the exact number, and look at whether they need repairing or replacing. Part of the aim is to free up space for new benches, as there’s a waiting list of people wanting to donate and dedicate.

In our last magazine, a small advert appeared asking for volunteers to help carry out a bench survey. ‘We were pleasantly surprised by the response’ says Jenny Palmer, Deputy Conservation Officer. ‘Nearly thirty people volunteered to help. Some benches may have fallen into a poor state of repair, while others are in a location where they’re no longer used, or perhaps vegetation has grown up around it so it can’t be accessed. In short, we need to know the exact state of every bench, then draw up a plan to sort things out.’

The volunteers are being given some training and will then head out to discover, and catalogue benches. ‘We only have a small team of staff, and trying to survey all the benches was taking a long time, so we’re extremely grateful for the help’ says Jenny. ‘The volunteers are people who enjoy walking on the hills and quite a number are retired. The first time they head out, they will have a warden with them who will help identify exactly what they should be recording. We’ll also pair up volunteers if they’re not already with someone else.’

Of course a feature of many local benches are the inscriptions. They might have been dedicated to a loved one, commemorate a wedding, or be presented by a society or club for which the Hills are an important place. ‘A lot of people want to place memorial benches on the hills’ says Jenny, ‘but unfortunately we can’t fulfil a lot of requests because we can’t continue to add benches indefinitely.’ Part of the current plan is that if we find benches which are beyond repair, it could be replaced, which opens the opportunity for a new dedication.’

The bench survey volunteers will be assigned their own paths to walk and collect information on the benches they come across. ‘As well as noting the grid reference on a map, we also need detailed information on the condition of the bench, the view it looks out on, the condition of surrounding vegetation and whether the bench has an inscription.’

‘There’s a waiting list for people who want to donate a bench’ continues Jenny, ‘and this process should help give more people the opportunity to dedicate one. They offer to pay for the supply and installation and then we maintain it for the duration of its lifetime, which is normally between ten and twenty years. We expect the numbers of people wanting to dedicate a bench will remain higher than the number of spaces we can offer, but hopefully this project will go some way towards addressing the issue.’

From All About Malvern October/November edition 2013

By James McDonald - All About Magazines