Walk off the Christmas excesses with two country strolls in Worcestershire.
I spend most of my working life outdoors, landscaping and maintaining the gardens of Worcestershire for my many clients, but it’s surprisingly rare for me to get away from ‘the office,’ don my Wellingtons, and march off in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment and weight loss on a vigorous country walk.
Yet this is what I hope to be doing over my Christmas break. I will gather my windproof, tug on my boots, and summon my in law’s dog, Bella, with a hearty cry before setting off on my stroll!
Worcestershire is bountiful in its walking routes, and there are two places where I would like to muddy my soles this December. One I have tramped up and down on numerous occasions before, but with a magic akin to compound interest, the majesty of the Malvern Hills only seems to grow on each visit. But the first of my walks is somewhere I haven’t been before: the Worcestershire Wild Life Trust’s site at Grimley Brick Pits, an important wetland and home to Worcestershire’s only Heronry.
With this walk I plan to first book my table at the well-regarded Wagon Wheel inn at Grimley. I’ve heard excellent reports of this place (especially the Sunday roasts), and reserving a table if you are going to eat has been advised to me by a friend of mine of some advanced years who enjoys his retirement by being a local in every pub within the county boundaries. So whilst I look forward to the meal I and my walking partners will have after we finish our march, it is unfortunate that Bella will have to be set aside in the car boot – for the pub doesn’t allow dogs.
A quick glance at the OS map of the area, and a quick examination of the Grimley Brick Pits webpage on the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust website, gives me some idea of what to expect. We are warned that all dogs must be kept on leads at all times, and that marshy conditions are to be expected (it is, after all, a wetland, so that is as it should be, even if we have had probably the mildest and driest December that I can recall).
The path looks to meander close to the river Severn, and the webpage warns us that travelling into the Grimley reserve is not possible, and that you have to view it from the path. Now I’ve never seen a heronry before, but I’ve heard that they loud and boisterous areas where numerous couples make their nests. Indeed, I made the mistake of loading up a Youtube video of a heronry, and the sounds had Bella putting her paws over ears!
Whilst I wouldn’t regard myself as an avid Twitcher, as a gardener and keen outdoorsman, I do appreciate our winged friends. They are exceptionally clever and each bird has its own personality. Often, when I am at work, I will find myself watched by a robin as I turnover the borders, with its eyes looking out for any wriggling worms to feast upon. Or a small gathering of Dunnocks (with a remarkable sex life for a bird that’s so drab and dull coloured), that skip and chatter and chase each other around the hedges.
But with herons, of which I have probably never seen any more than two together, I don’t really know what to expect. The fact that such a bird lives in the tops of a tree seems somehow wrong, an insult to geometry and good sense. And the collected name for a group of herons is equally surprising: they are referred to as a ‘siege of herons.’ (Quite how anyone came up with that name is something I would be interested to learn. Some say it is a corruption from the word ‘sedge,’ the grass that can often be found in wetlands and that would go hand in hand with the heron in their shared natural environment, but there’s no way to know for certain).
My second walk that I aim to do sometime in the holiday period is a sojourn over the Malvern Hills: not the entire range of course, but perhaps a starting point at the Worcester Beacon and heading northward, before coming down into West Malvern and the Brewer’s Arms Pub. Such a journey would require two cars, to leave at both the start and finish, and it is a route I have done a few times over the years. True, the beacon can be a bit of a climb, but the Malverns are known for their gentleness, and if there’s a good pub with a fire at the end of it, then the effort will not be wasted. If you are unfamiliar with this walk however, I would advise you to familiarise yourself with the hideous endeavour of trying to park a car in West Malvern. Finding a parking space up there is not quite as difficult as divining a needle in a hay stack, but it isn’t the easiest thing in the world.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, we are fortunate in Worcestershire to have such a number of good country walks, but I am always interested to know what routes you would take – especially if there is a pub at the end!