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Bracing Bredon Hill

A walk on Bredon Hill and through Worcestershire's perry country.

Distance 7.5 miles (12.1km)

Minimum time 3hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 1,115ft (340m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Tracks, woodland paths, bridleways, minor lanes, 11 stiles

Landscape Farmland, woodland, panoramic views into Wales

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 190 Malvern Hills & Bredon Hill

Start/finish SO 955423

Dog friendliness Close control needed - cows, horses and lots of sheep

Parking Roadside parking, Great Comberton village

Public toilets None on route

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1 Begin beside the telephone box in Great Comberton. Follow Church Street. Go through the churchyard; leave by a gate. At the road go down the stem of the T-junction. In the dip find a stile. Ascend two fields, with a stream on your left. After 100yds (91m) in the third there is a signpost.

2 Turn right, initially beside trees. Soon a good farm track strikes across meadow. Ahead is a perfect Malverns' view. Follow waymarkers for the next 1½ miles (2.4km), taking the gravel driveway beside Woollas Hall and skirting St Catherine's Farm. Take a hard track, later tarmac, down into Bredon's Norton. After the first few houses reach a junction.

3 Keep ahead for 100yds (91m) to another junction. Turn right if visiting St Giles' Church; otherwise go ahead again, then round a left bend. Go into a field, to the right of two buildings - there's a waymarker on telegraph pole. Now follow an excellent track steadily upwards, through several gates, eventually swinging south east, for at least ¾ mile (1.2km). Less than 100yds (91m) beyond a single marker post reach a T-junction with 'no right of way' ahead.

4 Turn left. Soon go half right along a field edge, then right to walk along the wooded escarpment ridge, before open field leads to the triangulation pillar. Continue through the great fortifications and past an 18th-century tower called Parson's Folly, Mr Parson having lived at nearby Kemerton. There's a topograph here too. I could see Sugar Loaf, near Abergavenny, 49 miles (79km) away. Follow the escarpment eastwards. Pass a small plantation, then follow a wire fence, slightly descending, for over ¼ mile (400m), to a wood.

5 Don't enter the wood; turn left, beside it. Within 150yds (137m), bend right to a junction. Turn left, down a green hollow. At Doctor's Wood veer left to cross an oddly level field (note the absence of contours on the suggested map). Descend steeply through Cames Coomb, along a wide, well-horsed path. Briefly follow a level forestry road, then leave the trees, descending on a scalpings track for 400yds (366m) to a path junction.

6 Walk a further 375yds (343m) on the good track to find a path on the left, initially between two hedges. When it ends go straight ahead. Keep this general line - later a hard track - back into Great Comberton. Turn right to the telephone box.

Bredon Hill is a solitary outcrop of hard, yellowish limestone. The fort on its plateau summit enclosed 22 acres (8.9ha). Today the hill is one of English Nature's National Nature Reserves.

As the name Pershore - 'Pearshore' - suggests, the area around nearby Pershore has long been synonymous with pears (and plums too). Although perry remains a popular drink, with some manufacturers of perry apparently planting new orchards, many traditional pear orchards have, like apple orchards, been wiped off the map, either for more lucrative forms of agricultural activity, or for house building. An interesting legacy is the presence of pear trees in local hedgerows.

The pear's gene pool is being maintained by setting up a national collection. As many as 120 varieties of perry pear have been recorded; about half of these have been traced in recent years. Specimens have been planted at the Three Counties Showground, near Malvern. In addition, the Worcestershire County Council's Conservation and Landscape Team runs a fruit-tree scheme, like its counterpart in Herefordshire. Pear, along with other fruit trees such as cherry, apple and plum, is a popular wood for turnery; also, the fine grain of pear wood makes it an acceptable substitute for engraving when the favoured box wood is not available.

When you are in Worcester look out for the city's coat of arms - it bears three black pears. The story goes that when Queen Elizabeth I visited Worcester, the city's 16th-century events manager arranged for a Worcester Black Pear tree to be placed along her route; this pleased Her Majesty, who pronounced that the city's coat of arms ought to display these splendid fruits ? and so it came to pass. Doubtless she didn't actually taste one for, unless it has changed down the years, the fruit is a great disappointment - too tough to eat uncooked, it needs to be served in a pudding such as a crumble, or preserved in syrup. (The same goes for the colour - the fruits are no more black than white grapes are white.) Nevertheless to encourage some sense of heritage among its children, Worcestershire City Council has provided every one of the city's schools with a Worcester Black Pear tree.

Elmley Castle's name dates from the 11th century, when Robert le Despenser built a castle on an outlier of Bredon Hill. It was later part of the estate of the Beauchamp family. The castle was again fortified in the 14th century, after interim decay. It is said that stones from this castle were used to build the old Pershore Bridge, adjacent to the present-day A44 road bridge. Today there is precious little to see of the castle itself (on private land). Although nothing like the scale of the fort, the castle's earthworks warrant portrayal on the Ordnance Survey map, and a 'castle pool' is also shown.

While you're there

A few miles to the north and clearly seen from Bredon Hill is Pershore Abbey in Pershore. Founded in the 7th century, the oldest surviving parts, hewn from local limestone, are Norman.

What to look for

The lovely stone Woollas Hall is nearly 400 years old. You should see deer here, kept in by a tall fence. The (green) carpet of St Giles' Church in Bredon's Norton is singularly un-Norman; part of the church was rebuilt in the early 1880s.

Where to eat and drink

Walk 8 is 'dry'. On Walk 9 is the Queen Elizabeth Inn in Elmley Castle, which welcomes children and dogs; or try the Bell Inn, Eckington, on the B4080.

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