Malvern Hills - romantic retreat and spring water source
The Malvern Hills in Worcestershire and Herefordshire (and a small area of Gloucestershire) are a range of pleasing low hills known for their soft beauty and as a source of spring water.
Their attraction to visitors was stimulated alongside the development of the 19th-century spa town of Great Malvern. They are designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The name Malvern itself is probably derived from the ancient British moel-bryn, meaning "Bare-Hill".
The highest summit of the hills, which run north to south for about 8 miles, is the Worcestershire Beacon. It affords a panoramic view of the Severn Valley, the hills of Herefordshire and the Welsh mountains, and as far as the Bristol Channel, and the cathedrals of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford.
British Camp, an Iron Age hill fort, can be found atop the Herefordshire Beacon. The site is thought to date back before the Common Era. Folklore states that the ancient British chieftain Caratacus made his last stand against the Romans here. But this is unlikely, according to the description of the Roman historian Tacitus who implies a site closer to the river Severn. The original fort saw the later addition of a medieval castle.
Malvern water has long been acclaimed for its purity, benefiting from the rocks of the Malvern Hills being amongst the oldest and hardest found in England. In the 19th century Malvern became famous for the 'water cure', resulting in its rapid development from a village to a busy town with many large Victorian and Edwardian hotels. The water has been bottled on an industrial scale under the Schweppes brand since 1850 until 2010. A family-owned business, Holywell Malvern Spring Water, has continued since 2009. Available in about 70 locations around the Hills, residents and visitors can fill containers free of charge. Two interest groups promote the legacy of Malvern water: The Malvern Spa Association, and The Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells.
The Malvern Hills were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1959. The designation covers 105 square kilometres. The Malvern Hills are home to a wide range of outdoor sports and leisure activities, including walking, mountain biking, horse riding, orienteering, hang-gliding, paragliding, model aircraft flying, fishing, climbing and diving.
Amongst those who have drawn inspiration from the hills are the composer Sir Edward Elgar, who used to walk and ride in them from his home in Malvern. The Elgar Route is a 37-mile circular signposted route through the Malvern Hills countryside and Worcester, taking in the surroundings that inspired Elgar.
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