Herefordshire Hills
England
2019

Herefordshire Beacon


14. 7. 2019

Peter Schrammel

Weather

partly cloudy

Interest

****: long hike over the splendid, southern part of the Malvern Hills

Route

Ledbury, 83m - Eastnor, 104m - Bromsberrow Hill, 180m - Chase End Hill, 181m - Ragged Stone Hill, 252m - Midsummer Hill, 276m - Swinyard Hill, 260m - Herefordshire Beacon, 338m - Colwall, 131m

Elevation gain

+857/-809

Distance

20km

Timing

5h (3/4 + 1 + 3/4 + 1/2 + 3/4 + 3/4 + 1/2 + 1)

Stamina

F: exhausting approach from Ledbury

Difficulty

0: the only difficulty are blackberry shrubs and very steep, straight, slippery sections

Danger

3: smaller cliffs along the way up to Ragged Stone Hill, the quarry cliffs on the way to Swinyard Hill are fenced off

Visitor frequency

d: almost lonely until Hollybush, lots of hikers afterwards

Comments

Orientation from Wayend Street to Chase End Hill is very difficult. One has to roughly follow the right direction across the fields and then find the gates and overpasses (!) that allow to cut across fences and hedges. The signage is generally trustworthy and helpful.

Report

Finally a reasonably dry weekend day was expected. So, I decided to take the train towards Hereford next morning. Later as planned, at 11.30am I walked down Ledbury Highstreet. People were gathering for a procession. I heard drums approaching, but I had no time to wait and watch since my goal was to get to Great Malvern. I turned left up the hill and took a path over the hill towards Eastnor. It goes a bit up and down over meadows and woods. After the first meadow there is an enormous oak tree. I encountered a couple of runners. I walked through Eastnor, which essentially consists of an interestingly looking church, a primary school and a castle, which is hardly visible, but I was going to see it much better from the top of the hills later. I followed the road to Wayend. This section is a bit dangerous as the road is quite busy and there is not much space between the road and the bordering fences. To avoid the road I turned right and tried to find the path that goes straight up to Bromsberrow Hill. However, I could not find it. So, I walked over the meadows. When approaching a fence I saw a couple of partridges, which stumbled away hiding in the bushes. I reached the little road east of Hillend as expected and continued southwards through the wood to a big meadow with lots of sheep. The footpath indications were useful for reassuring that I was taking the right path, even though it was hardly recognizable as path. I crossed the meadow and found the breach in the hedges were a little footbridge leaves the pasturage. The path leads as indicated on the map south of the hedge towards the hilltop. One requires quite some self-confidence to walk through the high, damp grass because it is hardly believable that this should be the correct way. Before the hill top the path led onto a big field and went down along the forest until it suddenly stopped. It seemed wrong to turn left, so, I had a second look and found a path hidden by raspberry scrubs leading steep down the hill to a forest road that I could not find on the map. I followed it and finally reached a point where a path parted to the left leading up to the road that I wanted to reach. I followed that path, but it ended on a pasturage. I climbed straight up the steep meadow, but could not get through the hedge to the road. After searching a bit and keeping distance to the rather grim-looking cows I could get over the fence and followed the road southwards. On the map there is no path that goes straight up to Chase End Hill, but it seemed that it should be easy to reach it by just walking up the steep meadow. So, that's what I did and little later I reached the top at 1.30pm. Since it had already taken me more than 2h to get here, it was clear that I would not make the traversal of the entire chain of hills, but only half of it. The sky was a bit cloudy, but the view over the plain of the Severn valley was good. I continued the steep path downwards. I got on the eastern path which goes further down the pass than necessary. However, the path on the other side of the road is quite nice and efficiently leads over a rocky ridge to the top of Ragged Stone Hill. There is a view to the obelisk on the ridge from Eastnor towards Midsummer Hill. Also the towers of Eastnor Castle emerged from the woods now. Whereas I had not seen anyone since Eastnor, the path to Midsummer Hill was considerably busier. On the top of the hill here is a concrete shelter. I took a brief brake to eat my sandwich before walking down. I tried not to get dragged onto the western path and got on a narrow path that led down through woods of fern. I finally reached the quarry lake at the foot of Swinyard Hill, whose rocky face had already drawn my attention during the approach. I got on the path along the fence with nice views down to the lake, but I then had to hike down a bit to reach the main path again. A bit further up I turned right to leave the forest and follow the broad ridge to the top of the hill. Herefordshire Beacon, the highest peak of the southern part of the Malvern Hills, was slowly approaching at the horizon. The pass that separated me from Hangman Hill is considerably less pronounced than the previous passes. I walked past the Giant's Cave a shallow cave cut into the rock on the way to Millennium Hill. From the top of Millennium Hill I took pictures of the ditches and earth walls of the iron edge hill fort that give Herefordshire Beacon its characteristic terraced shape. While enjoying the view an entire bus of French tourists arrived on the summit. Since it was already 3.45pm I had to speed up a bit to catch the train at 4.50pm from Colwall. The way down to the road was steep, but entirely tarmaced. The solitude on the path down across cattle pasturages to Evendine was in stark contrast to the business on the pass. The further path to Colwall goes along a large field and finally passes under the railway to reach the village. I arrived at the station just 10 minutes before departure.


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