The Malvern Hills History

The Malvern Hills History

When you come and visit the Malvern Hills and Common you will be impressed with the diverse terrain and the breathtaking scenery.

Interestingly the Malvern Hills contains some of the oldest rocks in Britain and their craggy outline is reminiscent of the uplands further west into Wales. They have been described as a mountain range in miniature and the ridge extends eight miles. Walking the Hills provides a strenuous walk, which is why the likes of Mallory walked there in preparation for his ascent of Everest.

Archaeology at Herefordshire Beacon (British Camp)

The Malvern Hills

Iron Age excavations at British Camp

One of the most popular landmarks to attract many visitors is British Camp. This part of the Malvern Hills was actually excavated in modern times, and archaeologists can only surmise its function by looking at similar excavation sites, such as Midsummer Hill – An interesting point is that Summer Hill has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1923, so is the only hill in the range not owned by the Conservators.

In 1965 –1970 extensive excavation work was undertaken on the site under the direction of Dr S. C. Stanford. The first two camps were found to be from the IRON AGE, the third smaller camp, known as the Citadel, is probably NORMAN. The term “camp” is somewhat misleading as the earlier 7-acre enclosure was probably a permanent home to around 500 – 700 people, while the subsequent 32-acre camp could have housed up to three times as many.

It is these IRON AGE ramparts, which form the landmark we see today. The latter construction could have been a simple moat however, this seemed unlikely as there is no water supply. So probably its main purpose of the camp was to provide a relatively secure place to live, only proving difficult if the inhabitants had to withstand a prolonged siege.

The Shire Ditch or Red Earl’s Dyke

The Malvern Hills

Weather Vane at the Wyche Cutting

North of the Wyche Cutting to the south of Midsummer Hill the Shire Ditch is in parts clearly defined as a man-made ditch and bank. As an ancient property boundary, it still divides Herefordshire and Worcestershire for much of its length.

Disputes are nothing new between neighbours and 700 years ago Gilbert de Clare (Earl of Gloucester) owned extensive hunting rights on the eastern side of the Hills. He tried to extend these rights to the West but was thwarted by Thomas de Cantaloupe, Bishop of Hereford and owner of much of the western side. In 1287, Gilbert de Clare finally acknowledged defeat and built a dyke to prevent his loss of deer becoming the Bishop’s gain, A further ditch, to the North of the Wyche Cutting, almost certainly dates from the same period, following a dispute between Gilbert de Clare and William Ie Poer, lord of the manor of Farley.

 Pillow Mound

South East of British Camp, near Broad Down and Clutters Cave, is a much more humble ‘Scheduled Ancient Monument’ but its origin and purpose were unknown, but it is possible that is was a rabbit warren dating from the medieval period. Described by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments as being approximately 28 yards by 8 yards, with traces of a ditch at the ends and on the lower side.

Later History of The Malvern Hills

In 1083, William I (the Conqueror) designated his land, which included his land at Hanley and much of the surrounding area, as a ‘Royal Forest’, following the death of his wife Matilda. This decree gave those having rights of Common to graze certain animals and collect firewood throughout the Chase, rather than just in the manner of which they were tenants.

In 1628 Charles I, looking for ways to raise money, had a survey made of the Malvern Chase. A charter of disafforestation was signed at Westminster in March 1632. The charter included an agreement that the king would give up all crown rights over the Chase in exchange for one-third of the common land (the King’s Third), which he promptly sold.

‘Thirds Wood” was planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee on the west side of the Hills above Jubilee Drive, between the Wyche Cutting and Gardiners Common and the other two-thirds of the hills, were to remain open and free for the lords, freeholders, and commoners. This act was confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1664.

Over the next 200 years, much open space and commonable land was eroding by enclosure and encroachment –

  • Enclosure – by major landowners such as the Hornyolds
  • Encroachments were more invidious and nibbled away at the Commons a little at a time

The Foley family as lords of the manor of Malvern ignored much of this activity as upon discovery of encroachment, the occupier would be given the option of paying an annual rent or have his property destroyed.

Over the years concern at this loss of the common land led to a number of local people, including Stephen Ballard and Robert Raper of Colwall, forming the Malvern Hills Preservation Association in 1876.

In 1884 the first Malvern Hills Act was passed and with it the formation of the Malvern Hills Conservators.

The Malvern Hills Conservators

The Malvern Hills ConservatorsThe Malvern Hills Conservators were established under the Malvern Hills Act 1884, followed by four subsequent Acts in 1909, 1924, 1930 and 1995, and were set up to protect:-

  • The rights of Commoners
  • The public
  • To prevent encroachment on the Malvern Hills, lands and commons

From the various acts that have been passed the Malvern Hills Conservators job is to:-

  • Manage the Hills
  • Preserve the natural aspect
  • Protect and manage trees, shrubs, turf and other vegetation
  • Prevent unlawful digging and quarrying
  • Keep the Hills open, unenclosed and unbuilt on as open spaces for the recreation and enjoyment of the public
  • Conserve and enhance biodiversity ‘sites of special scientific interest’ and ‘scheduled ancient monuments’ on its land

The Conservators are also a registered charity.

Walking the Malvern Hills

The Malvern Hills

Worcester Beacon

With over 3000 acres of open countryside to walk, The Malvern Hills attracts many walkers and the highest point is found on the Worcestershire Beacon. The Malvern Hills Act 1884 placed the land under the jurisdiction of the Malvern Hills Conservators and open access on foot all time was agreed. The only time the Hills were closed to the public was during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2002.

As you can walk anywhere on the hills the usual regiment of signs and waymarks are not visible, but the Victorians constructed many paths that make walking the Malvern Hills such a delight.

Dog Walking on The Malvern Hills

The Malvern Hills

It is a joy to walk your dog on the Malvern Hills but it is important to bear in mind that the Hills and commons are grazed by stock. Search out ‘Stock watch’ who will inform you of their whereabouts. (They are always present on Castlemorton Common). Aside from stock, nesting birds like skylarks who get disturbed by dogs flushing them off their nests, so, be responsible when out walking with your dog.

Dog fouling is always a problem especially around car parks, so please be sure to clean up after your dog. There are dog bins at various locations.


 Cafe’s to visit on The Malvern Hills

Geo Centre and H2o Cafe Great MalvernThe GeoCentre is the official visitor centre for the Geopark Way with a friendly Cafe called H20. Situated on the western slopes of the Malvern Hills, it provides information about The Malvern Hills Geopark with wall maps in the Centre showing the Geopark and its geology, the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the Malvern Hills & Commons. There is a wealth of information there that you can access from your smart phones along with a large video wall showing panoramas and videos of the region.  You will see a small display of fossils and rocks from the region, and if you have kids there are activities for them at a school desk workstation. Note the cafe is closed on Wednesday but visit their website for more information;

desk workstation. Note the cafe is closed on Wednesday but visit their website for more information;

The Kettle Sings is a licensed restaurant and tea room with a panoramic view over the countryside towards Wales. You can reach The Kettle Sings via The Kettle Sings tea rooms MalvernJubilee Drive, a scenic road that runs from British Camp to the Wyche Cutting. This cart road was surfaced back in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s 60 years on the throne and this is when a small workman’s cottage was built. In 1928 this little cottage was extended into an English tea room called the ‘Kettle Sings’ and was a huge hit with visitors and walkers on the hills. It’s believed that Edward Elgar liked to take afternoon tea at the cafe and used the panoramic views as inspiration for his music.

The cafe is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 5 pm and closed on Tuesdays. Visit The Kettle Sings website to view the menu

Hang Gliding and Mountain Biking on The Malvern Hills

The Malvern Hills

Hand Gliding on the Malvern Hills

You will often see hand gliders at Pinnacle Hill above Gardiners, but the Malvern Hang Gliding Club regulates this activity. If you want to use the site to fly, then you are encouraged to join the club to get the most out of flying in the area.

Under the Countryside Act, 1968 bikes are allowed on Bridleways, and an Ordnance Survey map will show the bridleways. As a general rule, all paths on the North Hill are bridleways; a legacy from the donkey trips and most of the paths on the east side of the middle hills are bridleways except for the path above Jubilee Drive. This is kept free of horse riders and bikes to allow elderly people a quiet walk.

Bikers are asked to stay off British Camp, as although the mounds may look a challenge, the Camp is in fact over 2000 years old and is a protected monument! Mountain bikers going up and down the slopes will cause too much damage to this protected site.

Bird Watching on The Malvern Hills

The Malvern Hills provide excellent bird watching opportunities. The variety of habitat on and around the Hills attracts birds as diverse as Ravens, Linnets and Buzzards all the year round – Redstarts, Turtle Doves and Pied Flycatchers in summer and even Snow Buntings from time to time in winter.

There are about 70 local bird watchers in the Malvern Hills Bird Group, which you are welcome to join.

Sponsored Walks on The Malvern Hills

Raising money for charity, walking The Malvern Hills is very popular and most weekends there are events. As an organiser, you will need to register.

If you are interested in visiting the local area, Orchard Side Bed and Breakfast Hanley Swan provides a perfect base to explore The Malvern Hills and surrounding area.


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  1. alfredo thomas

    can you metal detect on the hills.

  2. I’m afraid you cannot. “It is an offence under our byelaws to remove or displace turf or soil or to use a metal detector on land under the jurisdiction of the Trust

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