At the end of Malvern Chase

Standing at the southern end of the Malvern Hills and looking east, only a few woods and copses of the old Malvern Forest remain visible. Once the hunting ground for kings, the Forest was given to Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester as his own private “chase” when he married Edward I’s daughter, Joan of Acre, as a way of further securing his loyalty. Such was the game of thrones in 13th century England.

We will return to the “Red Earl” on a later walk. For now we can simply survey his former chase from the aptly named Chase End hill (although this may be a folk etymology for the peak).

Chase End looking east

Chase End looking east

To Chase End hill

To Chase End hill

Summit

Summit

On the east slope of Chase End, the path enters the Bromesberrow Estate. I have so many early memories of these woods and commons: my uncle’s boomerang lost in the ferns; sitting on my father’s back at what cannot be more than two years’ old; learning right from left at a junction on the path. The mud was deep and glorious yesterday, perfect for wellies but not for the eternal washing pile at home.

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Birch branch/Winter sky

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The remains of the Chase

Swinyard’s Hill to the Obelisk and Gullet Quarry

A pre-Christmas stroll in mild but windy weather.

From Castlemorton Common the path leads up to Pink Cottage and Swinyard’s Hill (a corruption of Swineherd’s Hill).

Grandchildren mimicking grandpa on path up to Swinyard's Hill.

Grandchildren mimicking grandpa on the path up to Swinyard’s Hill

From the top there are long views east across Worcestershire and south and west across Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

The Severn Plain.

The Severn Plain

The path south drops off the edge of Gullet Quarry and so we turn west through Gullet Woods towards the Eastnor estate.

West across Herefordshire

West across Herefordshire

Gullet Woods

Gullet Woods

Life!

Life!

We then make our way towards the obelisk, erected by the Somers family in memory of various of their deceased: John Lord Somers, Baron of Evesham and Lord High Chancellor in the reign of William III and Queen Anne; James Cocks who fell in battle at St. Cast in France in 1758;  and Edward Charles Cocks who died in 1812 at the Siege of Burgos. The obelisk serves as a useful reminder that in England’s wars, the gentry have not escaped death’s reach.

DRH on his way to the obelisk

DRH on his way to the obelisk

South of the obelisk lie the scant remains of Bronsil Castle which once guarded the border area with Wales and are the reputed site of buried treasure. Old Lord Beauchamp hid his gold and silver here before setting off on a crusade. He promised his wife that even if he died in battle, the hoard would easily be found so long as all of his bones received a proper Christian burial. Alas, he died on crusade and evidently not all of his remains returned from the Holy Land because the treasure is still lost. (The croak of the raven set to guard it can still be heard.) With John Masefield we easily imagine here “a silent army of phantoms thronging a land of shadows.”

Grandpa and M contemplate the Bronsil treasure.

Grandpa and M contemplate the Bronsil treasure

The walk ends as we retrace our way back to the common via Gullet Quarry which, if the Malvern Gazette is to be believed, is pretty much the most dangerous place in Britain.

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Some of us feeling sad at the loss of the Gullet for swimming. Others not so much

The Nanny State. (Great pic, Jacob!)

The Nanny State. (Great pic, Jacob!)

Give me back my camera!

Give me back my camera!

St. David’s Day

As an Englishman I am supposed to do something mean to a Welshman today, perhaps “by hanging out all kinds of scarecrows with leaks on their heads” in order to humiliate his patron saint. A few taunts of “Taffey” should also be in order.

Such were the antics reported by William Schellinks on his visit to England in 1662.  While the good-natured intra-national teasing which bounces around these islands is part of British life, to be boorishly anti-Welsh today would be both silly and rude.

It would also make no sense, given my own Glamorgan ancestors and my love of Wales, especially Dewi’s own Pembrokeshire, the lovely cathedral of which we visited (again) last summer, and which I would like to feature as a proper pilgrimage destination soon.

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Avoiding evil at St. David’s Cathedral

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!

Dunkery Beacon, Somerset

Our first county top for ages, but a real winner. On our way to north Devon we drove through Exmoor. Dunkery Beacon (520m) sits just above the road between Wheddon Cross and Porlock on the Somerset side of the moor. The walk is very easy, barely a mile from the road, but the wind was blowing icy rain into our faces as we followed a stone path between the bogs.

It was then on to Devon. Not sure I have ever been to north Devon before. Note to future self: Morthoe-Woolacombe-Croyde-Braunton is a lovely corner of the world. We particularly enjoyed Damien Hirst’s Verity at Ilfracombe.

May Day

It turns out that dancing around the maypole is a Merrie England tradition, i.e. a Victorian invention of something from an old English idyll. Just as well we didn’t do it. You can understand why the beginning of May brings out such levity, though. Summer is approaching, winter dead . . . although given the deluge we have recently endured, you wouldn’t know it.

The first Monday in May is a “bank holiday” in the UK, a day off. Its proximity to International Labour Day has had conservatives bleating from time to time, but that’s all rather silly. A long weekend was just what we needed and we spent the Monday enjoying, despite the rain, a fete organised by the school. Malvern has also joined Derbyshire in dressing its wells at this time of year. It’s a lovely tradition and we know of one undressed well that we are going to adopt next year. Pictures courtesy of Rebecca:

Clock Tower

Inside

Great Malvern

Worcestershire Beacon

Other English Year observances since I last posted: Easter (I was in Utah), the Queen’s birthday, and St. George’s Day (the children participated in a Scout parade to Great Malvern Priory).

English Year Update

We have marked the English Year several times since my last post.

  • St. Valentine’s Day: one of the few traditional holidays whose popularity has increased in recent years, probably due to its secular and commercial appeal. Thanks, B, for the Love Hearts!
  • Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day: a day of gluttony before Lent. Pancakes, of course, and also my last helping of meat for school lunch until Easter. (At my school, lunch can be a lavish affair.) I committed myself to flexitarianism a while back — I do not think that eating meat is mala in se, but I do think the factory production of meat is immoral and would be curbed if we would dial down our appetites for cheap meat (“eat meat sparingly” as one Mormon text puts it). Lent is a good re-commitment.
  • Ash Wednesday: marked by a Lenten service in Worcester Cathedral. We are giving up the following for Lent: evening internet (me), evening iPod (Becky), fizzy drinks (W), chocolate (M), and non-fiction books for bedtime reading (J).
  • Leap Year Day: this is also the Feast of St. Oswald, the Saxon Bishop of Worcester. I listened to sung Eucharist.
  • Despite my part Welsh ancestry, I simply cannot bring myself to celebrate St. David. Don’t expect anything for St. Patrick or St. Andrew either. As for me and my house, we will honour St. George!