A E Housman was probably sublimating when he wrote in ‘A Shropshire Lad’ of lying with a girl in summertime on Bredon Hill.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
He wasn’t really that sort of chap, by all accounts. Jane and I would have got pretty wet if we’d tried it under the troubled sky that the weather forecaster was glooming over today, with rain showers scudding in from the Bristol Channel. But you just can’t abandon an expedition up Bredon, however ominous the forecast. The hill tugs at you like an impatient companion – Housman got that right. And everything turned out bright and breezy anyway, as it happened.
Above the village of Elmley Castle we climbed smooth parkland fields past tremendous storm-shattered old oaks. Up the back slope of the hill past the high, bracken-smothered earthworks of Elmley Castle itself – the Norman castle’s stones were recycled to mend Pershore Bridge in Tudor times. Up through ancient woods full of the tall spikes of pungent woundwort and lace-like enchanter’s nightshade (fabulous name). Up to the ridge that curls round the edge of Bredon Hill’s 900-ft escarpment, and along to the flowery ramparts of a sprawling Iron Age hill fort.
There’s no exhilaration on earth like striding the walls of a hill fort with the wind bashing you and a 50-mile view to stun you speechless. Cotswolds in the east, Malverns in the west. South to Oxenton Knoll, down which they used to roll a fiery wheel to see if the new year would bring good luck. North-west to the Clents and the far-off Clee Hills that so enchanted Housman – a Worcestershire lad, in unromantic fact. The larks he wrote about were up on Bredon Hill today, and so were masses of wild flowers: yellow and white lady’s bedstraw, mats of wild thyme, rockroses with papery yellow petals; harebells, scabious, a single pyramidal orchid in the ditch between the ancient fort’s ramparts.
Up at the summit of the hill we found the Banbury Stone, shaped like a crusty old elephant couchant, and the grim little tower called Parson’s Folly that a local squire built for himself. One more gaze round the best view in the Three Counties, and we were bowling back down the slopes to Elmley Castle and the neat parlour of the Queen Elizabeth inn, everyone’s dream of a proper country pub.
Start & finish: Queen Elizabeth PH, Elmley Castle, Worcs WR10 3HS (OS ref SO 982411)
Getting there: Bus service 565 Evesham-Worcester. Road – M5, Jct 9; A46 (‘Evesham); just after junction with B4078, left to Elmley Castle.
WALK (7 miles, moderate grade, OS Explorer 190):
From Queen Elizabeth PH into churchyard. Keeping church on right, follow wattle fence to cross foot of pond (982410). Cross stile (yellow arrow/YA), follow field edge round 3 angles. In 500 m, just before corner, turn right over plank bridge and stile (985405). Aim for far left corner of parkland field (985402). Left over stile and footbridge; right (blue arrow/BA) through metal gate and up grassy track. In 100 m, right across footbridge (984401). Don’t fork left up bank, but keep ahead on clear dirt track. In 400 m cross footbridge (981400); bear left (BA) uphill. Keep fence on right, up through woods to T-junction of tracks at top of hill (974395). Right beside wood; keep to ridge track, ignoring side tracks. At end of wood, keep ahead with fence on left (967403, BA) for ¾ mile to pass Elephant Stone and Parson’s Folly (957402). Continue beside wall to enter trees. In 100 m, on right bend with BAs, turn even sharper right (952398, YA) down through trees, over gate stile and on down slope. Follow YAs on posts for ¼ mile to gravel drive (952405); left downhill for 2 fields, then right (949408; ‘Private Estate – footpath’) along stony track (YAs) for ½ mile. At water trough, left (957411, YA) downhill with fence on left. At kissing gate (954415) leave fence and fork a little right; follow hedge on right down to road (953418); right into Great Comberton.
At top of hill by ‘Pershore, Bredon’ road sign (954420), ahead along footpath (fingerpost) to enter churchyard. Right along wall to road; right for 50 m past Bredon House; left (955420; ‘Elmley Castle 1½’) on footpath through fields (YAs). After nearly a mile, ignoring all side tracks, reach a bridleway (970418; BAs left and right). Right for 30 m; left through kissing gate (YA) and on. After 3 more fields, pass through kissing gate (976416); in 4th field, keep to right hedge; in 100 m, right over stile (YA). Follow YAs for 3 more fields and through farmyard. Through 2 gates to left of barn; right behind barn to road (980413); left to Queen Elizabeth PH.
Conditions: Many stiles, some tall and awkward
LUNCH: Queen Elizabeth PH (01386-710419) – proper country pub