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Walk 9 - A Circular Hilly Walk

Hollybed Common to Midsummer Hill returning via the Gullet Quarry

Introduction

Allow one and three quarter hours for this circular walk of 3.6 miles. There are some fairly strenuous sections on Midsummer Hill (932 feet).  It will almost certainly be muddy in places so bring a change of footwear if driving to the area. For those interested in our ancient landscape Midsummer Hillfort is particularly impressive, the ramparts enclose two adjacent summits and a valley which date from between 470 BC to AD 30.

Summary

Access to this walk is from the delightful Golden Valley which is located on the Welland to Gloucester Road. If heading from Welland, take the single lane signposted ‘Golden Valley no through road’ where there is a tiny gravel laid path and the Conservators car park is a little way down the lane at map reference SO 7759 3709. This is quite useful in wet weather. However adjacent to the car park there are acres of parking on the beautifully green and lush grass, grazed to a smooth snooker table finish by the local sheep.

Walk towards the lake-sized mill pond. On the right the Information Board describes the wildfowl and the ‘Slender Hairs Ears’ normally found on coastal regions also have some colonies growing here on the Common. Continue on the path past the millpond. To the right a small stream flows down the hillside into the lake. This setting provides an attractive picnic spot set against the backdrop of the Hills. During the winter months the bridleway can be a tad muddy as it climbs to the summit of the contoured hillside at map reference SO 7681 3688. The contours may be man-made and medieval in origin.

On reaching the top of this section on the right are a couple of cottages. The A438 Ledbury to Tewkesbury Road comes into view and on the left set back from the road, is the picturesque All Saints Church. Continue to the right up the busy main road for a short distance and take the right hand turning onto the minor road towards the Gullet. Continue for a quarter of a mile passing a cottage on the right hand side. As the road begins to gently descend, there is a large lay-by to the left at map reference SO 7643 3764.

Walk into the lay-by and at the far end which is virtually hidden amongst the trees is a small but clearly defined path climbing fairly steeply up the hill. Follow the path uphill on the eastern side of Midsummer Hill, past the five barred wooden gate. As the trees begin to thin the first of the man-made stone-age ramparts come into view at map reference SO 7625 3717. Look through the trees and pick out the defence structure of these fortifications. The weather, wildlife and more recently trees have all played their part in eroding the high sections of the entrenchments and filling in the hollows. Even so, the scale of these ancient works is enormous. Pass through these earth fortifications onto a grassy plateau and immediately to the left the Hollybush Quarry can be seen through the young trees.

The path now heads back on itself in a northerly direction, on the left at ground level is the small National Trust sign indicating Midsummer Hill. The path gently rises to the summit at this end of Midsummer Hill. Take a little time to admire the glorious views across Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. Continue in a northerly direction and to the west the small shelter on the main summit of Midsummer Hill comes into view. Ahead the unevenness of the ground indicates man’s ancient activities to provide a source of protein with a medieval rabbit warren which is indicated on the OS map as the Pillow Mound. 

To reach the summit, follow the path down into the woods into a small deep valley at map reference SO 7615 3753. To the south is the original main entrance to the hill fort. Take the smaller south-westerly path up this last stretch of the hill, the main path to the right will bypass the summit of Midsummer Hill and the National Trust shelter. The small plaque explains that the Iron Age hill fort was given to the National Trust in 1923 in memory of Captain Reginald Somers Cocks M.C., from Eastnor. There are fantastic views across the Herefordshire countryside towards the fairy tale Eastnor Castle. The Obelisk stands proud in the distance broadcasting the Somers Cocks dynasty upon all who gaze upon this beautiful Herefordshire countryside.

Follow the track heading north towards the spectacular fortified British Camp in the distance and the impressive line of the Malvern Hills. The defined path descends through the ramparts on this northern section of the hill fort through the woods to the crossroads at map reference SO 7575 3801.  The left hand path leads up to the Obelisk, but our route takes the right hand path leading down parallel to the stream towards the large lake of the Gullet Quarry.

Walk around the lakeside and the path climbs slightly onto a metalled track. The Information Board describes the rock features and the many species of waterfowl to be found in and around the lake. Thankfully the quarry has reverted back to nature from man’s destruction during the twentieth century. Follow the track past a cottage on the right where a light refreshment stall is now in operation and behind it the stream continues to cut its way through the valley. The road now gently descends to the Swinyard Car park at map reference SO 7659 3814.  Continue along the road with the car park to the right and head downhill in an easterly direction. Ahead the vast undulating expanse of Castlemorton Common unfolds.

In 1992 between 20,000 and 40,000 people gathered here on the Common for a week-long free music festival. This was the biggest free festival since the Stonehenge Free Festival in the mid 1980’s. DJ’s Bedlam, Circus Warp, Spiral Tribe and the DIY Sound System blasted out techno dance music and bands such as Back to the Planet, Xenophibia, AOS3 and Poisoned Electrick Head provided the new age travellers and ravers with a mind blowing psychedelic Indie rock filled experience. This massive festival made front page headlines in all of the national newspapers and incited nationwide panic as to the whereabouts of the next free festival. It is suggested that this directly led to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This of course is seen as a draconian piece of legislation which was explicitly aimed at suppressing strands of alternative culture.

Continue down the asphalt lane until Berrow Down House comes into view. Immediately following the house turn off the road and head to the right, keeping the garden wall close by. It is not obvious but there is a small wooden bridleway post set in the grass at ankle height, which you should follow. The path continues south, keep the hedge on the right and the hollow and telegraph poles to the left. The path can be very muddy, look out for the bridleway posts indicating the route towards the house. Emerging from the brown sticky stuff, Tyrus House is on the right. A track joins from the left and then the path opens up into Hollybed Common with its attendant beautiful views. The little grass mounds create a gnome sized scattering of fantasy dwellings.

The views across the common particularly in the early morning when the sun’s rays are low and the shadows long are fantastic. Almost any of the paths across the open common lead back in the general direction of the car park concluding a very pleasant if slightly muddy tour of this beautiful and secluded area of the Malverns.

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.

www.malvernwalks.co.uk