Midsummer Malvern Madness

Today marks the beginning of the Civic Society's Midsummer Malvern Week! Join Route to the Hills as we celebrate all thing historical in a week packed full of fun  activities for the whole family to enjoy!

Tuesday 20 June 4pm - 5pm

In this nature-inspired activity we explore the history behind Great Malvern's Priory Park. Solve puzzles, discover stories, and locate certain trees to become an accomplished historical nature explorer! Meet us at the Bandstand and join in this fun activity perfect for children aged 5+. (Please note all children must be accompanied by an adult). 






Wednesday 21 June 10am-11am

Meet one of our historical experts as we follow the new interpretation route that is currently being installed in the town centre. Learn about stories which have inspired the route, see some of its features and share your own stories on this guided walk from Great Malvern Railway Station up to Rose Bank Gardens. Meet at Great Malvern Railway station entrance. The walk will take 40 minutes to an hour, and is uphill. For more information or to book onto the walk please contact katy.wade@malvernhills.gov.







Wednesday 21 June 6pm - 8:30pm

We would like to invite you and your family to join us in our Explorer Extravaganza, where we will be celebrating the release of our new book: An Unusually Excellent Guide for Curious Explorers. With fun activities, street theatre, photography and just a little bit of history thrown in, this FREE event will bring to life some of the puzzles, stories and characters found within our new Great Malvern Family Guidebook. All attending children will get a free copy of the book.  For more information, or to confirm your attendance, please contact Harry Robinson by emailing harry.robinson@malvernhills.gov.uk.

For more information about Midsummer Malvern please visit here  . We hope to see you at one of our events!

A Creative Spring

To celebrate the ground studs which are to be installed over the next few months, Route to the Hills has been encouraging local children to get creative using the stud designs to create unique pieces of artwork.

In total 50 studs will be placed in various locations across Great Malvern, which will direct visitors around the route, and will each represent a story or moment from Malvern’s history. From the famous Morgan Car to the not so famous astrolabes that Prior Walcher used, all of the project’s five historical themes will be showcased in 20 beautiful images designed by illustrator Chichi Parish. We turned ten of these studs into  stamps, which we encouraged children to use in several activities around the Easter holidays.

Malvern Flowers: As part of the Town Council’s St George’s Heritage Festival we gave parents and children ten riddles and questions about Malvern’s history that they had to solve to make their very own ‘Malvern Rose’. The answer to each riddle was represented by one of the stamps, with participants getting to choose either the easy or difficult questions (most went for the more difficult set!). For each question they got right, they were to use the stamp on one of the ten petals of the Malvern Rose, encouraging it to bloom! The children could then take home their roses, with many saying they wished to take into to school for show and tell.

Easter Decorations: Another of our activities took place at Fortis Living’s annual Eggstravaganza. Using the stamps the children made their own Easter decorations, with ribbon, coloured paper and colouring pencils used in addition to liven them up! We had 20 children take part, with the owl stamp in particular being a favourite amongst the girls!

Keep an eye on our events page over the next few months to make sure you don’t miss any of the summer activities we are currently planning!

A Guide for the Curious..

A unique and unusual family guide will be hitting the bookshelves around Malvern later this year. Designed for families to use to explore Great Malvern it is packed full of  practical information, humour, activities and stickers which will provide hours of entertainment for the big and little children in your family. Simon Berry spoke with Taissa Csaky and Natasha Podro, the editor and author for this guide to find out more. 

The Brains behind the guidebook begin their extensive research!

The Brains behind the guidebook begin their extensive research!

S: It seems an excellent idea to have a Family Guide Book about Great Malvern.  I understand that this book is being produced as part of the Route to the Hills Project.  Can you explain a bit about your role and how you came to be involved? 

N: We’ve worked together on various heritage projects - we enjoy making history fun and accessible and since we both love the area around the Malvern Hills we jumped at the chance to work on the book. And luckily for us the Route to the Hills team said yes. 

T: I’ve also worked on a couple of Rough Guides, and in children’s educational publishing, so this project brings our experience together in a really enjoyable way. We developed our ideas for how the book should look, feel and sound and what kind of activities it should include together, then Natasha did most of the writing, while I took an editorial role.  

S: Is the Guide Book aimed at parents and children of a particular age? 

N: The book is aimed at parents (or grandparents) of primary school-age children.  

T: We think it will work best when at least one of the children can read the book for themselves, and take on the job of guiding the rest of their group. 

 S: What is the reason for producing a guide aimed specifically at this group?  

N: We had to choose an age range because it’s impossible to write for everyone (a 7-year old and a 14-year old are so different). In our experience, the younger ones are more likely to be taken on the route. Younger children also need the diversion and variation of different games, challenges and jokes to keep them engaged. That said we know from experience that if the book is well-written (and we think it is) it’ll appeal to a wider age-range and the older brothers and sisters will join in too.  

S: Do you expect this book to be used just by visitors to the Malvern Hills or will local people also find items of interest?  

N: Actually it’s aimed at locals as much as at visitors. It’s very easy to take somewhere for granted when you live there and this will remind residents how amazing their town is. 

T: I’d like to think it could be a nice thing for aunts and uncles, or grandparents living in Malvern to do with visiting younger relatives. So potentially it’s a way for locals and visitors to explore the town together.      

S: Can you tell us a little about the main themes covered by the guide?  

N: Because the guide is designed to be used while out and about the themes had to be led by what people could actually see. We look at the Water Cure of course, the wartime radar researchers, the Priory, the Gatehouse, the donkeys of Rose Bank Gardens, Elgar and lots of other things.  

S: What information do you feel is particularly helpful for parents and their children?   

T: We think people want to have fun following the route and not worry about finding the way, so we’ve worked hard on making the directions clear. We’re also including some really basic practical information – where to park, the route from the station, where the loos are, where to stop for a drink and a sandwich.  

S: Presumably you have had to do quite a lot of checking to ensure that the information in the guide is accurate.  Has this presented any problems or surprises? 

N: Our fact-checking has been made much easier thanks to all the local experts we were put in touch with. We have found that books sometimes contradict each other – did Elgar fly a kite or did he not? What year was the priory founded etc? Then we have had to dig a bit deeper to find out where the facts came from. Faith Renger from the Museum has been a great source of information and Peter Smith has been our go-to expert on most things when we’ve discovered conflicting information. 

S: Have you met any interesting people or discovered any intriguing facts during your research to produce this book? 

N: Yes! The whole story of Great Malvern’s ‘secret scientists’ during the war was something we’d never heard about. Mike Burstow was hugely enlightening on the subject – we pretty much wanted to just write down what he said and put it straight in the book. One of the most touching things was how they weren’t allowed to tell the locals what they were doing – even if they were billeted with them – so they were resented for not being away fighting. It must have been so hard for both sides.  

T: I particularly like the story of how monks kept each other awake during night-time prayers.  One would walk up and down with a lantern and if he spotted someone snoozing he would wake him up by shining the lantern in his face. The sleepy monk then had to take over lantern duty.  

S: Has anyone consulted with parents or children to find out what might be helpful to them in a guide to Great Malvern?  

T: We sent out a questionnaire to various families to get their feedback on the proposed designs and content. We also road-tested our ideas with our own families throughout the process to make sure what we were doing would be up to scratch.  

S: What will the finished guide book look like and will it be available to access online?   

T: The full title is ‘Great Malvern: an unusually excellent guide for curious explorers’. It’s going to be very colourful, with lots of photos and some very lively illustrations. It’s 40 pages long and fairly compact – just a bit wider than a regular paperback so you can easily pop it in a rucksack or handbag. It includes colouring activities, puzzles, stickers and some explorers’ props, so it’s going to work best in print.  

S: Will the Family Guide book be available for the public to buy? If so, how much is
it likely to cost and when is it likely to be available?  

T: We’re hoping the book’s going to be sold all around Great Malvern. The final price will be around £5, and it will be available in late April.  

S: Will the book contain local photographs or illustrations and if so, who has  
contributed to this?   

T: It will have quite a variety of images. Local photographers are supplying photos to help people find their way around. Faith Renger at the museum has supplied some fascinating historic photos and drawings. And we’ve commissioned new illustrations from a talented young artist called Pádhraic Mulholland.  

S: If a family decided to explore all the locations mentioned in the guide, how long would it take?  Could they do it in a morning or a day or are there enough interesting places for several visits to Malvern?   

N: I would say a morning to visit all the places mentioned – although with younger kids you’d need to break that up with a sandwich or cake. We’ve put some puzzles and stickers in the middle of the book, so the grown-ups get a rest too.  

T: Hopefully people will find the book quite flexible. You could visit all the spots in order, or just dip in and out. We’ve included an activity trail around Malvern Museum, and recommend the walk up to St Ann’s Well, but you could save those up for another day.  

S: Have you been involved in any other projects similar to this in the past? 

N: We’ve both done lots of museum trails – at the National Gallery in London, the Ashmolean in Oxford and various churches and historic houses. We had more fun than usual with the Malvern guide as we could include lots of jokes and puzzles. 

T: It’s a lot like a guide to a museum or historic building. But with fountains, sculptures and buildings instead of museum objects and furniture! 

S: Were you familiar with the heritage of Great Malvern before you became involved with the project?   

N: We knew a little about water cure but most of what we learned was entirely new to us.  

S: What have you enjoyed most about your involvement in the production of this Family Guide Book?   

N: The excuse to visit Great Malvern. Being told intriguing things by interesting people and the chance to really have fun with the text. Of course the guide is historically and factually accurate, but there’s nothing stuffy about it. We think it’s unusually excellent.  

Thank you for your time. I wish you every success with the Family Guide Book and I am looking forward to seeing it when it is complete.   

What's in the Box?

In order to help make Malvern's history more accessible to schools and Home Educators, Route to the Hills has funded the production of three 'loan boxes' which organisations and families will be able to hire to learn about a themed topic from Malvern's history. The boxes are being produced by Malvern Museum, and so volunteer Simon Berry spoke with Faith Renger from the museum to find out more. 

S: Where did the idea of the loan boxes first come from? 

F: Schools have used loans boxes for many decades. The museum was keen to introduce them some time ago as a way of taking some of the museum collection into the community, especially given the very restricted nature of the museum for school groups. The idea is that they will attract primary schools as well as adult social groups 

S: Who has put them together and how did they choose what topics to include?   

F: The curator (me!). The themes were selected to meet the new Key Stage 1 and 2 curriculum changes which came in 3 years ago. The history curriculum for 5-11 year olds now has to cover the period from early prehistoric times to 1066, with an additional local history topic(s). Malvern's 2 hill-forts make an excellent local history topic to explore the wider period, and the Water Cure is another fascinating period to discover. 

S: Can you tell us a little about the different themes covered by the packs included in the boxes?     

F: The Water Cure Teachers' notes and class sheets have been designed to consider why Malvern has such a plentiful source of pure water. This ties up with the geology of the hills so also ticks a Science box in the new primary school curriculum. Descriptions of the Water Cure treatments, along with the famous doctors offer a good choice of activities. The arrival of the Water Cure led to a rapid and impressive expansion of Great Malvern, so map work and town planning considerations are encouraged. Tourism is another offshoot of the Water Cure and the arrival of the railway and the use of donkeys and ponies provide more activities. 

F: Prehistoric Malvern: Archaeology and chance finds show that the area was visited by Old and new Stone Age communities, with stone axes and flint weapons and implements being found over quite an extensive area. The Bronze Age peoples left behind some of their tools too and may well have been the first groups to excavate the 2 hill forts (Herefordshire Beacon and Midsummer Hill) in circa 800BC. The Iron Age tribes extended both hill top fortifications by 400BC and probably as many as 1,500 lived on each hilltop during the summer season, for fairs, markets and ritual practices. Prehistory is quite a complex topic to teach so to use local resources and information will hopefully make it more appealing and relevant.  

F: Geology: Another technical and complicated study for primary schools. The Malvern Hills are rich in both the variety of rocks and minerals that make up the surrounding area, and in fossils. Rock handling, determining the components of different rocks and understanding the formation of rocks way below the earth's surface is much easier when it is all on the school's doorstop. Meeting small creatures in a fossilised state is also exciting! 

F: Victorian Malvern: The museum's largest collections come from this period and while it is not included in the new curriculum, aspects of Victorian life can be considered. 

S: How did donkeys come to be associated with the Malvern area?   

F: Donkeys were used as a means of travelling up the hills a long time before the Water Cure reached Malvern. Malvern Wells had been the first to exploit its pure water at Holy Well, and many visitors came each year. Perhaps donkeys were seen as the cheapest and most adaptable for ferrying passengers? Ponies were also used. Donkeys were often very badly treated and an act was passed in the 1820s to improve their conditions, so Malvern was not alone in using these beasts of burden. Queen Adelaide the Queen Mother, rode one in Malvern in 1841 and it received the name Royal Moses as a result. This donkey became very popular and it probably stimulated the donkey trade considerably. 

S: Can you tell us what the boxes actually look like and what is in them?   

F: The Water Cure material comes in 2 plastic boxes on wheels, and this will be the same for the other loan boxes when completed. The teachers' notes and class activities are presented in a folder and can be photocopied. Dressing up clothes (donkey boy, water cure patient, bath attendant) are available, along with a water jug, towels and sheets. The prehistoric loan box will have tunics, flints, stone axes and a bronze axe, an antler pickaxe and a number of text books, as well as teachers' notes and class activities 

S: What advantage does a box have over just providing a written guide?   

F: A box of material will hopefully bring a topic to life in an informal, fun and educational way. Teachers should feel supported in having locally sourced resources that can be used and adapted, especially in topics they may be unfamiliar with. The boxes should offer ample scope for learning about difficult topics within the classroom, with practical ideas. 

S: How many boxes are being produced?  

F: Three have been decided on with others in the pipeline if schools are keen. Malvern's Water Cure is already available, and Prehistoric Malvern will be offered after Easter 2017. Geology should be ready for the next academic year.  

S: How do you hope schools and children will benefit from using the boxes? 

F: Children will be more able to interpret their immediate surroundings and make a lasting connection with their home town. Perhaps children and their families will also want to visit the museum as a result! 

S: What age of children are the boxes aimed at?   

F: The boxes have been designed to meet KS2 requirements (7-11) but can be adapted for KS1. The Water Cure box has been used with an adult group and the information and practical activities could even be tried out at this level. Prehistory and Geology could also interest all ages  

S: Are the contents and suggested activities safe for children?  

Almost all the artefacts are replicas, which doesn't make them safer but probably less expensive to replace if broken. The Water Cure box is very safe but the Prehistoric box will contain blunt but heavy stone and bronze axes, and potentially sharp flint implements. Teachers will be expected to provide a high level of supervision when these are being handled 

S: Do the schools need to pay anything to borrow the boxes? 

F: There is a charge of £15 per box, for a 3 week period. 

S: Do you have any favourites among the different contents of the loan boxes?   

F: I shall love the antler pick axe when it is made, and the bronze palstave axe head. Both will make a deep connection with our ancestors carving out a living in the somewhat hostile area 

S: If a teacher or one of the staff at school wants to borrow one of the boxes, what should they do next?   

Please contact katy.wade@malvernhills.gov.uk for more details, or send an email to malvernroutetothehills@gmail.com to sign up to the learning newsletter.

For a limited time we will be giving the loan boxes to schools for free so that we can trial the contents and activities, so get in touch quickly if you would like your school to be considered for this time limited offer.