Arrive in Bridgnorth and overnight.
BRIDGNORTH to DUDMASTON (5.5 miles) (8.8 km)
Bridgnorth is both historic and picturesque, situated as it is on both banks of the River Severn with the medieval High Town on a sandstone plateau 100 feet above Low Town which sits around the bridge. Caves are still visible beneath the castle, hewn from the local red sandstone. From the castle there are magnificent views across the Severn Valley which continue as you follow the river south. Highlights of this route include the St Mary Magdalene’s church in Quatford, built originally in Norman times, now splendidly individual with a mixture of stone – tufa and local sandstone adding to its aesthetic facade. Also interesting are the remains of the ancient Forest of Morfe, now part of the Dudmaston Estate, and a wonderful mix of deciduous and coniferous trees planted as part of an ambitious and enlightened forestry policy.
DUDMASTON to HIGHLEY (7.3 miles) (11.7 km)
Dudmaston Hall now belongs to the National Trust, previously having been held by the same family for 850 years – a fascinating house and garden. The trail follows the River Severn south through picturesque hamlets, past the ancient Butter Cross, seeing the local red sandstone in cottages, farm buildings and field walls. This is known as the Alveley Sandstone and is 310 million years old. Part of the path follows the Severn Way long distance footpath, originally a towpath for men and horses pulling barges up river to Bewdley and Ironbridge.
HIGHLEY to KINLET (6.5 miles) (10.5 km)
This section of the Geopark Way heads westwards through a former mining landscape, now wooded and farmed, with little signs of the ancient rocks below except in its underlying form. Remnants of an industrial landscape are visible throughout the walk – quarries, settlement remains and spoil heaps from the mines, now grassed over. If time allows Ray’s farm is worth a visit, and superb views are to be had to the Clee Hills and Wedlock Edge from the top of Knowle Hill, and further on looking over Kinlet Hall you can see Clent, Lickey and Cotswold Hills, and to the south the Abberley Hills and an end on view of the Malvern Hills.
KINLET to BEWDLEY (7.8 miles) (12.5 km)
This section of the Geopark Way is characterised by undulating agricultural and wooded landscape atop clays, coal, shales and sandstone. In Wyre Forest there are deep-sided valleys formed in the Ice Age by brooks and tributaries. Wyre Forest is a fascinating area of ancient woodland which was used as a royal hunting ground in medieval times before its timber was plundered for ship building. In later centuries wood stoked the furnaces of the iron forges as well as being used for besom making, basket weaving and firewood.
BEWDLEY to LARFORD LAKE (7.8 miles) (12.5 km)
Bewdley is a beautiful little town on the banks of the Severn. It was a thriving port during the 17th and 18th centuries and many industries burgeoned as a result. Now little is left apart from the stunning and plentiful Georgian architecture. Delightful riverside walks lead out of the town towards Stourport and Hartlebury Common. An interesting feature of the walk is Redstone Rock, a former hermitage dating back to the 12th century, housing 500 men and a chapel in 1538, and inhabited until the middle of the 20th century.
LARFORD LAKE to ABBERLEY (7.9 miles) (12.7 km)
This section of the Geopark Way starts in the post ice age Severn Valley, and follows Dick Brook – the first canalised brook in England – to the foot of Abberley Hill, passing through Astley village and St Peter’s Church with its unusual carvings on the exterior walls. This route gives superb views of the Malvern Hills from Abberley Hill and views across the Teme Valley as you progress.
ABBERLEY to KNIGHTWICK (11.6 miles) (19 km)
The clock tower at Abberley, designed by Joseph Jones to complement the buildings at Abberley Hall, now a school, is a focal point for miles around. The summit of Walsgrove Hill affords excellent views of surrounding countryside, including Woodbury Hill, crowned by an Iron Age hill fort. The path follows the route of the Worcestershire Way down the spine of the hills to meet up with the River Teme close to Martley. The River Teme is a SSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) throughout its whole length because of its near natural state, its wildlife now includes an otter population. Ankerdine Hill is the summit of this trail, and many geological moons ago was the site of volcanic activity, evidenced today by several landslips from the clay underlay formed from volcanic ash. Visit St Paul’s church at Martley with its medieval wall paintings and a set of bells dating from 1673, the oldest complete peal in the land, and look forward to the Talbot Inn at Knightwick – a welcome watering-hole with its own Teme Valley brewery.
KNIGHTWICK to MALVERN (10 miles) (16 km)
This section of the Geopark Way covers a huge geological time period, travelling towards the ancient precambrian rocks of the Malvern Hills, formed 700 million years ago; hence the dramatic variations in landscape as a result of these differences in the underlying rock.
Panoramic views of west Worcestershire unfold as the hills are approached. Although much of the agricultural land is now apple orchards or arable farmland, there are still acres of hop fields surviving alongside the River Teme. The Malvern Hills provide exceptional walking country with spectacular views to east and west, east to the Severn plain and beyond and west to the hills and mountains of Wales. Highlights of this route include the Knapp and Papermill Nature Reserve, covering many hectares of old meadows, woods and orchards and containing many unusual wildflowers and butterfly species. Leigh Brook which runs through the reserve has perfect conditions for the brown trout which in recent years has supported the return of otters to the area.
NORTH MALVERN to COLWALL STONE (4.5 miles) (7.2 km)
The Malvern Hills run from north to south and are approximately 9 miles long. They are beautiful, unspoilt, accessible and have numerous springs along the length of the hills which provide the world famous Malvern Water. The qualities of the water, and its purity contributed to Malvern’s fame as a centre for hydrotherapy and healing in the past, and its history as a Victorian spa town in the 19th century with many people visiting Malvern to take Dr Gully’s famous ‘water cure’, among them Charles Darwin whose daughter was brought to Malvern to take the cure. She is buried in Malvern Priory in the centre of town. Malvern’s water, unlike that of most spa towns, is famous for containing ‘nothing at all’!
The Malvern Hills have the oldest rocks of the Geopark Way, formed about 680 million years ago (Precambrian). Throughout the quarrying years, millions of tons of rock were removed from the hills, and many houses and buildings of all types were built using this stone – and of course can be seen today all over the town. The last quarry closed in 1977 but people still use the stone to enhance their gardens and renovate their walls. The area is now an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Today’s walk gives a taste of the hills taking you from the northern tip at Tank Quarry to the Worcestershire Beacon – the highest point of the hills at 1394 feet (425 m) from where you have superb far-reaching views in all directions. From here you descend down into neighbouring Herefordshire and the village of Colwall.
COLWALL STONE to LEDBURY (7.5 miles) (12 km)
Colwall Stone developed as a result of the arrival of the railway in 1860. The route continues along the side of the Malverns and then cuts down over undulating countryside, through hamlets and villages, traditional woods and orchards of Herefordshire, into the beautiful and historic town of Ledbury. Highlights of this route, apart from the sheer magnificence of the scenery, are the sight of the Herefordshire Beacon, one of the finest Iron Age hill forts in the country, for much of the route. The Malvern Hills Geocentre is the visitor centre for the Geopark route at Upper Colwall, with a wealth of resources and information about the Geopark Way and a delightful cafe! A further diversion is St James Church at Colwall which dates back to the 13th century.
LEDBURY to HOLLYBUSH (4.3 miles( (6.9 km)
Ledbury is a thriving and picturesque market town with many ancient and beautiful buildings. The Market House was first erected in 1653 and is a brick and timber structure supported on 16 massive posts – still used as a market underneath, although originally built as a grain store.
Both St Michael’s Church and the little cobbled lane which leads to it are worth a visit; the church is large and full of interest, built from a range of local stones and has a very handsome aspect.
The trail leads past Eastnor Castle, with its dramatic fairytale looks, and through Eastnor Park with its deer park and Obelisk at the southern end of the Malvern Hills, heralding Midsummer Hill and the path down to Hollybush.
HOLLYBUSH to NEWENT (8.1 miles) (12.8 km)
On this stretch the entire age range of rocks in the Geopark are traversed. From the Pre-cambrian Malverns you cross to the relatively youthful sands and gravels deposited by glacial meltwater 450,000 years ago near Bromsberrow Church. This is a beautiful and varied walk in the foothills of the Malverns, heading towards Gloucestershire and the Forest of Dean.
This area is well-known for the Dymock Poets, who included Robert Frost, Edward Thomas and Rupert Brooke, all spending time here before and during the First World War. Frost describes a walk on the Malverns with Thomas through Eastnor to British Camp and back in his poem Iris by Night.
In spring this area is covered with wild daffodils – a spectacular sight – followed by bluebells and wild garlic.
NEWENT to HUNTLEY (8.7 miles) (12.9 km)
Close to the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire border, the Three Choirs Vineyard has been producing spectacular wines since 1975 on their south-facing, free-draining sandstone soils. Newest itself, a couple of miles further has a number of listed buildings in the main street and another ancient Market House in the centre. The trail leads through rural countryside up to the summit of May Hill, where ponies roam freely, seen from miles around with its distinctive tuft of trees on top, planted to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and later more trees for Queen Elizabeth 11’s Silver Jubilee. From May Hill the views are spectacular – to the west the Forest of Dean and across the Monmouthshire hills to Skirrid and the Black Mountains in Wales. To the north the Shropshire Hills and round to the Malverns and Bredon Hill towards the Cotswolds.
HUNTLEY to MINSTERWORTH (4.6 miles) (7.4 km)
At Huntley church the route of the Gloucestershire Way has been joined. This final stretch to Minsterworth revisits the banks of the River Severn as it becomes tidal and opens seawards into the Bristol Channel. It has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world with tidal waves on high spring tides – a spectacular natural phenomenon. One of the favourite viewing spots for the Severn Bore is by the church in Minsterworth.
MINSTERWORTH to GLOUCESTER (8.2 miles) (13 km)
Inside the church at Minsterworth is a carving showing 3 salmon in a net – reflecting the importance of salmon fishing in Minsterworth’s history. Elvers are the main draw for fishermen nowadays – tiny eels coming from the Sargasso Sea to the River Severn. This last stretch follows the river to the city of Gloucester and its majestic cathedral in the centre. As you head citywards you can cross Thomas Telford’s bride at Over – the oldest large-span masonry road bridge in England. The River Severn at Gloucester is split into two channels with Alney Island, now a nature reserve, between the east and west channels.
Depart from Gloucester after breakfast.
Who says 'Gloucester' sees a tallIvor Gurney
Fair fashioned shape of stone arise,
That changes with the changing skies
From joy to funereal gloom....