We were camping with friends at the Caravan and Motorhome club site near the Malvern hills in Worcestershire and were all feeling slightly lacklustre. The previous night had been a late finish with some of Scotland’s finest single malts as pleasant company. The resultant hangover was compounded by lack of sleep due to a herd of raucously mooing cattle camping nearby. Some animals just have no consideration!
Before turning in we had drunkenly made plans to congregate at 10.30am to walk the Hanley Swan Circular, but after only managing to surface at about 10am, that deadline was looking increasingly difficult to meet – I mean, we couldn’t possibly miss out on bacon and egg sandwiches before going out could we? In any case, our total group size of 12 people was not going to cut it against Boris’s new ‘Rule of Six’ which had been recently relayed to the nation to help halt the Covid menace. The early risers of the group therefore decided to set-off at 10.30, leaving six lazy stragglers behind, guzzling their tea and scoffing their butties. It goes without saying that this group included us.
A gorgeous morning for a constitutional
We packed our Thermos flasks and trudged out of the campsite at about 11am, admiring the distant Malvern Hills on the horizon. I was a little disheartened that we were not heading up amongst them, but reminded myself that sometimes it can be interesting to view a familiar scene from an alternative perspective – or so my art teacher had told me at school before I dropped out of his lessons due to a lack of any artistic ability.
We turned right onto the road heading towards Hanley Swan – a lazy member of the crew then suggested cutting down the proposed 6.5 mile walk to something a little more in keeping with our sedentary mood. I was quick to concur – 4 or 5 miles would be ample.
Passing a quaint little house with vegetables for sale at the gate we eventually reached ‘Our Lady and St Augustus’ church and headed into the graveyard. It’s a beautiful church, and reading some of the grave inscriptions was certainly a reminder that we need to make the most of every moment, hangover or not!
At the back of the graveyard there was a stile which led on to a lovely meadow and a public footpath heading North West – we followed it, marveling at the sunshine and the peacefulness. It was remarkable that it was mid-September yet still so warm. Perhaps this would prove to be the last of the sun for the year, but it didn’t matter.
We had hit a small country lane now and the headache was receding into the distance. I was struck by one or two delightful barn conversions with ‘ample grounds’ as the estate agents always state. Was a move to the country definitely out of our league? I couldn’t envisage ever being able to afford one of those beauties, but the aspiration definitely lodged itself into my mind like a visual earworm. For now we would have to make do with the Marco Polo camper to get our countryside kicks – not a bad compromise I thought.
We took a left turn towards the Blackmore Park Industrial Estate which looked much more futuristic and sleek than the name suggests. There were cows in the field to our right and a pair of chestnut brown horses to our left. I could hear birds twittering and flies hawking around, illuminated by shafts of light. This was turning into a lovely ramble.
Just before the industrial estate we climbed over a style facing southwards and strode across verdant fields. The turf was spongy underfoot which made walking effortless. My daughter Loz was chirping away with her friend – she normally doesn’t like ‘flat walks’ as she calls them – this was about as flat as you can get but she didn’t seem to notice. We had ventured on to a forest path now, crossing a brook via a little wooden bridge. There was nobody around and we were enjoying having this leafy grove to ourselves.
After a few hundred yards we broke back into reality through a couple of gates and past the Oakmere Lodge Park. A few of the chalets were for sale and it got me thinking again about moving to the Malvern area – it’s a lovely part of the world.
At the main B4209 we turned left (heading East) back towards Hanley Swan, but after a couple of minutes we crossed the road and clambered over another stile to take a southern path through hay fields. At Mere End Cabin we took a path to the east again between a pair of fields harbouring Giant Puffballs before hitting Welland Road and a left turn back to Hanley Swan.
Hanley Swan – a Worcestershire jewel
Hanley Swan is a tiny hamlet with a great pub (The Swan Inn), a village store and a picturesque duck pond. We contemplated buying some food for a picnic but sadly the store was closed. It could only be the pub then for a couple of hairs of that demonic dog… OK, you twisted my arm! The Swan had a two hour wait for food so we settled for a few packs of Tyrrell’s crisps, some G&Ts and a pint or two of Butty Bach and Timothy Taylor Landlord. The ale was kept extremely well and disappeared far too quickly. Heaven in a glass!
The walk back to the campsite was pleasant – we saw a number of towering oak trees with a myriad of acorns on an old lady’s driveway – she was crunching on them as she walked to her front door – we waved over and she smiled back. A little further on, a buzzard was circling overhead. Loz tried to take a photograph using her mum’s phone, but the lens was unable to capture the bird’s magnificence adequately.
Finally we were back at the campervan in high spirits. The other group were still out, and a quick check of my phone using the Whatsapp location-sharing app showed that they were miles away – their walk had turned into a mammoth expedition! I felt happy that we had been lazy, and as the barbeque got fired up and a few more beers cracked I felt happier still.
A grand day out for sure, but the hangover on Sunday morning was even worse.