Beacon Race (7 miles)
The Worcestershire Beacon Race Walk
This is an abridged version of walk 5, taken from the ‘Pictorial Guide to the Malvern Hills’ Book Two: Great Malvern.
Copies are available from the Tourist Information Centre, Malvern Book Co-operative, Malvern Gallery, Malvern Museum and Malvern Priory.
This 7 mile circular walk follows the route of the Worcestershire Beacon Race and provides an interesting if slightly strenuous route from Rose Bank Gardens via St Ann’s Well, past the Goldmine and up to the summit of the Worcestershire Beacon. After soaking up the incredible panorama of the Herefordshire and Worcestershire countryside the return journey circumnavigates North Hill before returning to Great Malvern. Allow a whole morning or afternoon for this scenic walk if fleet of foot or if enjoying refuelling stops probably 5 hours is nearer the mark.
Turn right out of the Abbey hotel passing through the Priory Gatehouse and as the Post Office is reached, take the sharp left up to the Wells Road with Belle Vue Terrace to the right. Taking care at this junction of the busy Wells Road cross-over to the entrance of Rose Bank Gardens with Malvern’s newest sculpture the eye catching ‘Buzzards’.
Every year since 1953, on the second Saturday in October, Malvern’s most popular running event, the Worcestershire Beacon Race takes place from the Rose Bank Gardens next to the Mount Pleasant Hotel (Map Reference SO 7746 4577). The race has its origins as far back as 1953 and was established in honour of Charles Blewitt, a local athlete who ran for England in the Olympics. The modern race commences at 3 pm with a field of up to 300 runners; local clubs such as the Malvern Joggers (see www.malvernjoggers.co.uk) fill Rose Bank Gardens with their brightly colourful club vests and aroma of muscle pain relief potions.
After noting your departure time, walk in a southerly direction out of the gardens past banks of rhododendron and a number of Malvern’s impressive gas powered street lamps. Continue through the wrought iron gate set amongst two Malvern stone pillars parallel to the Wells Road and past the ‘Great Malvern’ road sign. A little further on, when reaching the public bridleway sign turn right for a short scramble up onto Foley Terrace. Turn right and continue for 300 metres gently uphill in a north-westerly direction, until on the left, a narrow path is spotted climbing through the woods signposted ‘St Ann’s Well and the Beacon’. This steep path is at least 45 degrees in places and zigzags uphill in a south-westerly direction until meeting a wider footpath signposted to St Ann’s Well off to the right.
The well took its name from St Ann who gave patronage to wells and springs in the Middle Ages. The first official record of St Ann’s Well was made by the Bishop of Westminster in 1282. The well has its outlet through a beautifully carved dolphin head into an ornate shell-shaped basin and is freely accessed to the right of the café.
The plaque above the spout reads:
Drink to this crystal fountain
And praise the loving Lord
Who from the rocky mountain
This living stream out-poured
Fit emblem of the Holy Fount
That flows from God’s eternal mount
After enjoying a refreshment break from the cafe consider whether Tolkien gained inspiration from St Ann’s Well nestling amongst the trees and hillside as a burrow for his Hobbits!
Now walk past the wrought iron tables and take the small footpath to the left heading in a north-westerly direction which drops down to the steep Happy Valley road at Map Reference SO 7728 4600. Take a sharp left up to an old gas lamp and a cast iron pillar then head right onto the footpath in a north-easterly direction gaining height into the woods. Follow the contours of the hill to a pretty hollow amongst the trees at Map Reference SO 7728 4614. Go up the short steep bank and take a sharp left, heading back in a south-westerly direction, the path goes past a rocky outcrop back to Happy Valley.
Now walk a few paces up the road and take the track signposted St Ann’s Well which swings to the left at Map Reference SO 7709 4596. This leads to a delightful grassy plateau ideal for picnics known as St Ann’s Delight. After stopping for a while to admire the view, walk downhill past the back of St Ann’s Well and continue on the broad flat track which is now above the public conveniences signposted to the Wyche Road for approximately three quarters of a mile in a south-westerly direction towards Malvern Wells.
On reaching the Wyche Road the path climbs for 400 metres and is signposted the Wyche Cutting. The climb makes up for the lost height in the previous section and ascends into the woods and up to Earnslaw quarry. Keeping left, the path splits, with one route heading slightly downhill to Earnslaw car park, keep to the slightly smaller, higher path in a south-westerly direction as it winds its way uphill through the woods. A stone wall comes into view on the right, and after a few metres take a final steep right turn and join the wide path at the Goldmine, Map Reference SO 7691 4416.
The Goldmine was abandoned around 1727, which was remarked on by none other than ‘Treasure Island’ writer Daniel Defoe. The broad path climbs steadily leading to the bright-green grassy saddle between Summer Hill and the Beacon. It can be quite windy at this point of the walk. The main path rises up the Eastern (Great Malvern) side of the hill. After a gruelling 400 metres uphill struggle, the path levels off and the Beacon and trig point is seen to the left on the rocky summit and provides a magnificent view over stunning countryside in all directions with Herefordshire to the West and Worcestershire to the East.
The Toposcope commemorates Queen Victoria’s reign and was erected in 1897, to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. The brass plate is engraved with every point of interest visible from the Beacon. After enjoying the vista head downhill in the direction of North Hill and follow any of a number of tracks to the saddle between Sugarloaf Hill and the Beacon. On reaching the saddle there is a second Toposcope at Map Reference SO 7683 4567.
Now go left (east) along the broad path heading around Sugarloaf Hill, downhill towards West Malvern. The Dingle valley is to the left. West Malvern is now visible with the tower of St James’s Church and the impressive Victorian stately home. Note the unusual looking weather vane. At the lowest point of this track, on the right hand side is the small Westminster Spout spring, Map Reference SO7647 4617.
Opposite the spring is a small bench at the edge of the meadow, providing a picturesque view of West Malvern. Continue straight on with West Malvern to the left, head up the narrow stony path, past several cottages. On the right is the second of the three unusual cast iron weather vanes to be seen in West Malvern. Go past the wooden kissing gate, footpath sign and small plaque depicting Joyner’s Meadow. Ignore the footpath to West Malvern and continue to climb the path known as the Lady Howard de Walden Drive which then levels off as North Hill is approached. To the left is the most northerly of the hills, End Hill. Our route continues to circumnavigate North Hill.
The Drive swings around the hill and meets the top of Green valley, walk down the fairly steep path towards St Anne’s Well through the thickly wooded valley until arriving at the junction of St Ann’s Delight, take the right fork down to St Ann’s Well for the final time in this walk. Follow the path above the toilets and retrace the route through the woods to the St Ann’s Well sign, head down the steep zig zag path through the woods returning to the hard surface of Foley Terrace which comes as an unpleasant surprise to the feet after the soft woodland path. Retrace the original route back to the footpath close to the Wych Road and then on to the welcome finish line in Rose Bank gardens. Do note your time and see if you can achieve a Personal Best (PB) next time you embark upon the Beacon Race Walk!
Carl Flint FRSA