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Walk 8 - A Summer's Day Walk

A delightful Summers day walk across Castlemorton Common

This enjoyable seven mile circular walk starts in the little village of Welland and heads into the expansive Castlemorton Common to the picturesque Little Malvern Priory and Little Malvern Court. The route runs parallel to the hills providing a fabulous view of the Severn Valley. The halfway marker is the Gullet Quarry, before returning across the Common and back into Welland. The walk will take approximately three hours without picnic stops.

If driving to Welland, park by the village hall just past the crossroads and then walk south along the Gloucester Road past the Church and the popular Post Office & General Stores. On reaching the last cottage, the aptly named Boundary Cottage, the broad expanse of the common opens up to the southern section of the Malvern Hills. Turn towards the hills onto the common passing the ‘no unauthorised vehicle sign’.

The common is home to many herds of cows which roam quite freely and often onto the road, with it would appear not a care in the world. Broom and the bright yellow of the gorse in spring provide a decking of colour. The Herefordshire Beacon and its ancient sculptured hill fort is due West and is followed in a southerly direction by the gentle slopes of Broad Down, Hangman’s, Swinyard, Midsummer, Hollybush and Raggedstone Hills.

The path leads through a copse of trees and scrub and then cuts a diagonal across the common leading west towards Hancocks Lane. The open heath land is perfect for children to run and romp about providing a soft landing amongst the anemones, buttercups and the grassy mounds of old mole hills. The lane crosses a picturesque brook at map reference SO 7839 3936. The pollarded willow trees display their tiny ‘tree preservation tags’. Continue along the track and opposite the delightful pink painted Gate Cottage is a circle of crack willows with their huge trunks contrasting with the pollarded branches, looking like a collection of well worn shaving brushes.

Continue through the five barred gate and along the gently ascending lane, ignore the footpath sign at the first bend. Continue a little further onto the second public footpath turning left into a shaded path towards Millbrook Cottage at map reference SO 7770 3991. The path appears to peter out in the back garden, however, looking through the trees it leads towards an old-fashioned wooden stile. Cross over and walk through the open field in a north-westerly direction with the rising hills and the picturesque Little Malvern Priory set against a backdrop of ornamental and exotic trees and shrubs providing a beautiful scene of contrasting colours to create a magnificent picture-postcard panorama of the Malvern Hills.

Cross over the next stile and into the field which during the summer months is full of the distinct bright-yellow of Canola (Rapeseed). Interesting to note the name Rapeseed derives from the Latin for ‘Turnip’ and was first recorded in England during the fourteenth century. Continue up the sloping hillside to the galvanised kissing gate where the path leads onto the busy A4104 Malvern Wells to Upton upon Severn Road.

Enter the beautiful setting of the Little Malvern Priory churchyard and go into the vestibule of the Priory where the chapel can be accessed through the small iron gridded door. The glazing of the east window dates back to 1482 and was made in a Malvern workshop. The glass painted window depicts the key Yorkist personalities in English fifteenth century history with the family of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville with the future King Edward V. The choir seats are original; however most of the misericords were ripped off by Oliver Cromwell’s men.

A few paces up the road is Little Malvern Court, turn left after the Court following the footpath sign along the single track road passing an impressive display of topiary skills depicting animals and geometric shapes. Whilst to the right the cacophony of different coloured trees provide a beautiful backdrop to the hills. There are stunning views of the Severn Valley and to the south the Cotswolds. Continue along the track to the black and white timbered Underhills Farm. After untethering a multitude of knots with the two gates, head up onto the field, keeping close to the hedge on the right in a south-westerly direction. Aim for the modern galvanised gate and onto the highest point of the walk, at map reference SO 7678 3921, height 499 feet. Continue in a southerly direction along the track past Dales Hall Farm.

The lane descends towards the common and then turns to the left, we follow the bridleway south across the common. Take time to admire the view onto the distant Longdon Marsh and aim for the line of trees where a small brook trickles into the common at map reference SO 7672 3866. Follow the bridleway, with the hills to the right. Straight ahead is the Swinyard car park.

Turn right on the single track road towards the hills and ahead is the Gullet Quarry with its unusually bright blue-turquoise water and diverse species of birds enjoying the rugged landscape in this attractive reclaimed quarry. Return back down the track and past the car park where the Information Board describes one of the rarest trees in Britain, the Black Popular trees. Fortunately there are eighty of these specimens on Castlemorton Common, some of which are over 200 years old.

Our route follows the road descending through the common until reaching the crossroads at map reference SO 7724 3834, take the left hand turning past the sign depicting ‘residents only’. The road gives way to a gravel track and heads north passing Broomhill Coppice which completes this loop of the common back to the bridleway sign.

The return journey follows the route past Dales Hall Farm and onto the highest point of the walk. Take the footpath to the right following the two deeply furrowed tractor tracks leading down towards a blue painted gate. To the left of the gate is a small higgledy-piggledy stile hidden amongst the hawthorn bushes at map reference SO 7707 3936. Climb over and keep to the right, walking down towards the galvanised gate and farm track under the lee of the oak trees. Follow the track and continue across the common with its multitude of little grass mounds keeping the line of trees and bushes to the left.

Cross over the small wooden bridge spanning a delightful ford which provides an opportunity to clean up muddy boots and walk back onto the metalled Hancocks Lane. Return along the lane and across the field, passing through the copse back onto the Gloucester Road and into Welland, drawing to a close this energetic and interesting walk.

It is only a short drive to the Marlbank or Plume of Feathers, both serve excellent food and usually have a number of refreshing real ales and cider on tap to end this perfect tour through Castlemorton Common.

This is an abridged version of a walk from Book Three: A Pictorial Guide to the Malvern Hills, published by Malvern Walks at £8.50.  Available in local bookshops like the Malvern Book Co-operative (2 St Anne's Road, Malvern) and Tourist Information Centres in Malvern, Upton Upon Severn, Ledbury, Worcester.