Arrive in Gloucester and overnight.
GLOUCESTER to CLIFFORD’S MESNE (10.4 miles) (17 km)
The iconic landmark of Gloucester Cathedral is the starting point for today’s walk out of the city, alongside Thomas Telford’s bridge, spanning the west channel of the River Severn. Out of the city, woods and fields define the route, passing the ancient church at Lassington, and walking over landscapes of the industrial past – canals and railways – often replaced by roads. May Hill, with its crown of trees is a constant in your sights as you head into deepest Gloucestershire.
CLIFFORD’S MESNE to SLEAVES OAK (10.4 miles) (17 km)
A spectacular walk, especially in spring, with fields of wild daffodils and apple blossom in this most English of landscapes. Interspersed with the cathedrals in their urban settings are beautiful rural parish churches, with today’s route passing by the Arts and Crafts church at Kempley and the 12th century St Mary’s Church at Dymock with its original frescoes. The gentle undulations of the Malvern Hills can be seen to the east as the route leads you towards the area where the Dymock poets lived, loved, walked, inspired and were inspired during the early 20th century, and you pass from Gloucestershire into Herefordshire.
SLEAVES OAK to HEREFORD CATHEDRAL (10 miles) (16 km)
From the beautiful village of Woolhope deep in traditional Herefordshire cider country, pass through orchards, woods and common land, crossing the River Lugg at Mordiford and head towards Hereford and the River Wye, with its musical associations with Sir Edward Elgar. Parts of ‘The Musicmakers’ are said to have been composed at Mordiford Bridge on one of Elgar’s frequent walks and cycles in the area.
HEREFORD to OCLE PYCHARD (9.6 miles) (15 km)
Hereford was established as a cathedral city in 676 AD, the present building begun by the Normans soon after their arrival in the area. The unique treasure of the Mappa Mundi is kept at Hereford Cathedral – a 13th century map or history, on vellum with Jerusalem at the centre and ‘Britainnia Insula’ at the very edge. The cathedral also holds the largest ‘chained library’ in England, containing 1500 priceless books and manuscripts from as early as 1056. Here Sir Edward Elgar became England’s greatest composer for 200 years after being a violinist with the Choral and Philharmonic societies in Hereford. After receiving his knighthood in 1904, Elgar moved to Hereford – a house called Plas Gwyn on Hampton Park Road – where he composed some of his best works, including the Violin Concerto and his two Symphonies. His choral music reflects his great love of the countryside in Herefordshire and Worcestershire where he lived for most of his life.
The route out of the city takes you over the River Lugg and through farmland and low lying marshes towards Ocle Pychard – ‘a clearing in the woodland’. Pychard derives from the old French for green woodpecker, and the beautiful 13th century church is worth a visit with its copper spire and three medieval bells.
OCLE PYCHARD to STANFORD BISHOP (10 miles) (16 km)
Panoramic views of rural Herefordshire accompany this route, with views of Malvern ridge increasingly frequent. The 14th century church at Much Cowarne was one of Elgar’s haunts as was nearby Cowarne Court. Shortly after visits here in 1901 he composed Pomp and Circumstance Number 1 and of course his anthem Land of Hope and Glory could only be inspired by England’s countryside.
STANFORD BISHOP to BROAD GREEN (10 miles) (16 km)
Today’s walk is a particularly lovely one with a bit of everything scenery and terrain-wise. A bonus is the tiny church at Knightwick in its lovely rural setting. Superb views to the Malvern Hills as you cross from Herefordshire into Worcestershire. Elgar called this country between Worcester and Malvern ‘My Beloved Country’. This is orchard country, especially cider and perry orchards which were so prolific in the three counties – and may be again as there has been a resurgence in traditional apple growing in recent years. Hopefully months them will be the Beauty of Bath in August with its sharp, refreshing taste, and D’Arcy Spice in the spring.
At Knightwick is the crossing point for the River Teme which rises in the Welsh hills and flows down through this intensely rural landscape to the valley below the Abberley Hills before rounding Ankerdine Hill and flowing into the River Severn. There can be no more peaceful way to spend and evening than to stand on the bridge at Knightwick and watch the swallows wheeling over the river in summer.
Just before he died Elgar said:
I lie here hour after hour, thinking of our beloved Teme, surely the most beautiful river that ever was.
BROAD GREEN to STANBROOK (10 miles) (16 km)
Today’s route runs through Upper Broadheath, Elgar’s birthplace and his home, now converted to a museum and housing valuable manuscripts and many of his original scores. It is possible to avoid the city of Worcester should you wish to do so, and rejoin the route beyond the city.
The River Severn is Britain’s longest river – rising in the mountains of mid-Wales and has a long history as an important trade route. Worcester arose around a major ford when the Severn was still tidal to this point. King John visited Worcester in 1206, claimed it as his favourite city, and is buried in the cathedral, making Worcester a centre of pilgrimage and subsequently a wealthy city. Worcester is also a historic city because of the Civil War which began and ended here and there is much evidence in and around the city of events during this time in the 1640s and 50s.
Elgar lived in Worcester with his parents from 1859 to 1879, where his father’s music shop was at 10 High Street. He died in Worcester in 1934 and is buried at St Wulstan’s Church in Little Malvern at the foot of the Malvern Hills.
The route joins the Severn Way for a stretch as it leads out of Worcester to Callow End and Stanbrook Abbey, until recently occupied by a community of Benedictine nuns, and the home of the oldest private printing press in the country, the Abbey Press.
STANBROOK ABBEY to BRITISH CAMP (10.9 miles) (18 km)
Here are the foothills of the Malverns, Old Hills, and a wonderful panorama from the summit. This trail leads past Madresfield Court, occupied by the same family since 1160, and into Malvern Link and on up to the Worcestershire Beacon – the highest point of the hills at 1394 feet (425 m). The gradual descent is a beautiful walk along the side of the hills to see British Camp with its distinctive hill fort – the second highest point and the Herefordshire Beacon. The hills run north/south for over 10 miles and consist of exceptionally hard granite rock which has resisted erosion for at least 650 million years….the hills are managed by the Malvern Hills Conservators who maintain the hills for the public and posterity.
Malvern water, which spurts from its many springs around the hills, is renowned for its purity, and hence Malvern’s fame during the Victorian period as a spa town and home of the famous water cure. The water can be tasted at many of the springs, and in May the springs are decorated for the May week festival.
BRITISH CAMP to STAUNTON (10.4 miles) (17 km)
From the Iron Age hill fort the route descends towards Eastnor Castle and its distinctive obelisk, and on over the Worcestershire-Gloucestershire border and Whiteleaved Oak. From the high points on the route, Bredon Hill can be seen to the east, and beyond, the outliers of the Cotswold Hills. At the foot of the Malverns, the Malvern Chase, and ancient royal hunting forest established by William the Conqueror in 1083 extends to the Severn as heath and woodland. The M50 heralds the return to the south-west and the villages of the Gloucestershire lowlands.
STAUNTON to GLOUCESTER CATHEDRAL (8.4 miles) (14 km)
The Chartist movement leaves a legacy in the listed buildings at Lowlands in their unusually large plots, bypassed on the route towards Gloucester. There are a variety of routes which could be followed including the river route and a visit to the ancient Ashleworth tithe barn. Whichever route is taken Gloucester Cathedral is majestic when it appears against the background of Robinswood Hill and the Cotswold scarp.
Depart from Gloucester