Walk for a Summer's Day
This Walk is from Guarlford Church via Wood Street.
Grid reference SO 814454.
It is steep in parts and can be very muddy after rain, so strong footwear is recommended. The approximate distance is 4 kilometres (2 ½ miles)
It is useful to "Remember The Country Code" Be safe, plan ahead and follow any signs. Leave gates and property as you find them. Protect plants and animals and take your litter home. Keep dogs under close control.
Consider other people, and enjoy a pleasant walk in the beautiful English countryside
Begin the walk in Rectory Lane beside St. Mary's Church, which was built in 1845 as a 'Chapel of Ease' for those who could not walk to Malvern Priory for Church services. Now, or at the end of your walk, why not take some time looking round the Churchyard, which is particularly beautiful in Spring? Here many personalities mentioned in "The Guarlford Story" have found their resting place.
Outside the further gate stands the War Memorial, (where there was also once a ford) and across the road is Guarlford Court (a private house).
Look for the Church Bell! In 1906 a large three light window was installed in the west wall and the bell turret was removed as it was found to be unsafe. As a "temporary measure" the bell was hung in the nearby hornbeam tree where it remains to this day. The date on the bell indicates that it was re-cast in 1926. (Sadly it is not possible for the Church to be left unlocked these days.)
Next to the Church stand two modern semi-detached houses. On this site stood the Guarlford National School and School House. By the early 1900s there were on the School Roll over 100 children, in three classes. Many children would walk long distances to School, for example from the river bank at Clevelode or The Rhydd. The original red brick School wall can be seen to the left of the property.
Walk past the next house, Innisfree, and you will see a door set into what was once part of the Stables of the Rectory and which became known as The Rectory Room, used as a Village Hall from the early 1900s. At that time Nuns from the Convent of the Holy Name in Malvern Link held various classes and Mothers' Meetings, which closed in August and September for hop-picking, plus a Clothing & Boots' Club and a Dispensary. In the 1930s and 40s the School Doctor and the District Nurse would use the Room for examinations and vaccinations - it was even used by a visiting dentist, and one villager recalls waking up while a tooth was still being pulled out!
During World War Two the Rectory Room was known as The Point, i.e. a meeting point for the ARP and First Aid training, as well as continuing as a base for Clubs and Dances. (The present Village Hall, which was originally a Malthouse is in Penny Lane.)
Look opposite to Bamford Close, built in the 1970s on the site of old orchards, which gave the lane its original name of Cherry Orchard Lane. Some of the orginal perry pear and cider apple trees still grow in the gardens.
Proceed to The Old Rectory. When the building of the Church was finished in 1844 a house for the incumbent was built nearby, becoming The Rectory in 1866. After the last full time Rector retired in 1980, the Rectory was sold and is now a private residence.
Walk on down the lane; as you walk, look to the right, where across the Glebe Field can be seen New House Farm. You might be able to make out the initials NHF among the roof tiles. You can also see the two wings built on to the front of the house in 1908 and the old hop kilns to the left, without their original high roofs and cowls.
Walk on down the lane past Cherry Orchard on the left. The middle section of Cherry Orchard is three hundred years old and the main part was added in the Regency period. In the first part of the twentieth century, cartloads of cherries were taken from the farm to Great Malvern Station for despatch to London and Birmingham markets. Note the deep wide dry ditch running beside the lefthand side of Rectory Lane - you will see this continuing along the main Guarlford Road too. (It has been said that Lady Foley ordered ditches to be dug in order to make a distinct boundary between her neighbour's land and her own.)
Continue along the lane past the wooden footbridge. (The bridge leads to a footpath which crosses several fields and arrives in Hanley Swan, not far from the Blackmore Park camping site.)
Look for the nearby distinctive pollarded oak tree, reminiscent of Arthur Rackham's illustrations.
In the field to the right you will see an old brick building. In World War Two this was the Radio Listening Post, built to monitor enemy radio traffic and operated by TRE and the RAF. The site, chosen because it had the best radio reception in the area, was self-contained with water and septic tank, and the building was connected to four large lattice radio aerials.
(Please note - from this point the route climbs and can become rather muddy after wet weather.)
At the junction go left, past Woodbridge Farm, following the bridle path skirting the large farm buildings, to Wood Street, the ancient salt way and the link from the Severn at the Rhydd and Clevelode crossings to Wyche Cutting on the main salt route from Droitwich to South Wales. Look at the hedgerow, which has been estimated as being about eight hundred years old and includes a wild service tree, 'Sorbus torminalis' perhaps lowland England's most reliable 'indicator species' of an ancient woodland or hedgerow habitat.
At the top of the hill a stile and footpath sign on the left mark a route to Hanley Swan, near the Blackmore Camping site, and the path straight on leads through a bluebell wood and eventually to the Parish boundary. For our Walk take the path to the right and climb over the stile.
Before you take the steep path down alongside the field boundary, pause and look toward the Malvern Hills - a wonderful view!
Go down the path and over the stream via stiles and wooden bridge. Bear slightly right. (The other path to the left goes past the sewage works and eventually to Mill Lane, over several stiles, one of which is rather high.)
Follow the footpath signs to the field stile and across to The Green Dragon public house (meals & drinks available), rebuilt in about 1923, after the original thatched building was pulled down.
Walk back along the common towards Guarlford. The wide strip of common land bordering the main road from The Bluebell Inn to Guarlford village was the original "Barnard's Green" and each season brings something of interest.
Look back down the Guarlford 'Straight' at the avenue of trees, a beautiful approach to Malvern all year round but particularly lovely in autumn. Red oaks, chestnuts and limes replaced elms planted in 1840 by Lord Foley and others which died of Dutch Elm Disease in the 20th century.
(One local resident talked of a 'leapyatt' or ditch, which used to keep game animals within the Malvern Chase and was possibly where there is a hollow and belt of trees just before number 170.)
Look across the main road at the common opposite. The two old pear trees with twisted trunks grew in the garden of one of several cottages which stood on what is now commonland. Two young perry pear trees were planted nearby in 2006: a variety known as 'Moorcroft' believed to have originated from Moorcroft Farm in Colwall, also known as the 'Malvern Pear' or 'Stinking Bishop', once widely grown throughout the Three Counties.
Walk past the black and white house, number 170, which was thatched at one time. On the tithe awards, the field behind it is referred to as "Workhouse Orchard". On the common is a black poplar, which is regularly pollarded by the Malvern Hills Conservators. The "Welcome to Malvern" sign marks the boundary of Guarlford Civil Parish. (The Ecclesiastical Parish extends to Mill Lane.)
The deep historic ditches which run along the commonland on Guarlford Road and Rectory Lane have deepened and widened sections, which form ponds, presumably created to hold water for the stock which grazed the commonland. There are five of these ponds in the short length of lane between Guarlford Road and Woodbridge Farm.
Turn right into Rectory Lane and at the field gate on the right, pause and look at the wonderful view across fields to the range of the Malvern Hills. A little further along the lane you will find, on the left, good views back to the village.
Opposite Jasmine Cottage there are many willows and ponds. Nearby is a system of water meadows and local sluices for the irrigation of fields. It is said that at one time watercress grew wild here.
Follow the road round the bend to the left and retrace your steps to the Church. If you have time, complete your walk by going on past the church gate towards the attractive red telephone box on the green. In the autumn you will find in the lane lots of 'conkers' falling from the huge horse-chestnut trees ('aesculus hippocastanum') growing in the churchyard.
You will be able to see the award-winning Grange Farm Nursery, and the pond, which underwent extensive restoration in 2002. Guarlford Parish Council entered the restoration project in the Worcestershire County Council's 2002 Community Pride Competition and came second with a prize of £300, which helped to initiate the original Guarlford History Project.
Turn and look at the Church wall - note the Victorian Post Box and the tablets describing various commemorative trees, which have been planted in the parish.
You can also see on the green the Village Sign, which incorporates the Parish Council's Black Pear logo. It was designed by the Parish Clerk, Mr. Michael Skinner and built by Mr. Dennis Morgan the well-known Barnards Green Blacksmith.