The Studs of Malvern

You may have noticed some of the route's new features being installed recently around the town. One of the project's volunteers - Simon Berry - undertook a mission to find and locate some of the new interpretation, in particular the small ground studs. Read below for his account of his exploration through the town to find them!

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"Walking around Great Malvern is generally a pleasant experience.  On this particular December afternoon it was cool and dry with bright blue skies.  It was perfect weather for enjoying the distinguished and interesting buildings and admiring the hills which overlook the town.   However, today was not a day for gazing at the hills. I was keeping my eyes fixed firmly on the street, particularly the pavements... 

I had heard that Route to the Hills had recently arranged for a series of studs to be embedded into the pavements of the route, showing pictures relating to the history of Great Malvern.  My plan was to walk the route and spot all the different studs.   I was prepared, having found pictures of the various studs on the Route to the Hills website.  Carrying my pen and a copy of the informative booklet: Great Malvern An unusually excellent guide for curious explorers I set off from Great Malvern Station to walk the route and spot these mysterious pictures.

Walking up Avenue Road, I was soon in luck.  In great excitement I stopped abruptly on the pavement, narrowly avoiding colliding with two elderly walkers and a man with his dog.  After apologising profusely I eagerly began ticking off the pictures in the guide book.  Before long I had seen a Toposcope and a Nightingale (well at least pictures of them both) and was now immune from curious stares from passers-by.

Into a near empty Priory Park I anticipated peace and quiet.  It was almost empty of people.  However, the park was full of noisy pigeons, quacking ducks and lively squirrels.  I kept my eyes fixed to the ground and whichever way I passed the Malvern Theatres I was rewarded with more sightings of the studs, which I enthusiastically ticked off in my book.  As I climbed towards the top of the park I enjoyed a glorious view over the theatres to the Abbey Hotel with the hills above everything.  However, it was soon back to business, travelling through the grounds of Great Malvern Priory and onto Belle Vue Terrace.  The studs included a variety of symbols representing  amongst other things Morgan cars, Lea and Perrins Sauce and Gas Lamps.   

I arrived at the top of Belle Vue Terrace and walked to Rose bank Gardens to read the last of the Route to the Hills plaques and check my booklet.

It had been a pleasant and reasonably energetic walk and I had found most of the studs, apart from the Astrolabe and the Radar Dish.   The 99 steps to St. Ann’s Well awaited at the top of Rose bank Gardens but I thought today had been lively enough. Perhaps next time….

A Creative Thinker

Recently we said goodbye to the project's first placement Michael Wheatley, who helped us over the summer holidays on developing some new short stories for children, Michael joined us from Worcester University where he is studying a joint honours degree in English Literature and Creative and Professional Writing. Below he shares his thoughts on his time working with us.

Over the Summer, I decided to apply for a placement as a Creative Writing Intern for Malvern City Council in their Route to the Hills Project. As I’m currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Worcester, I thought this would be a good challenge to flex my still-developing writing muscles, whilst also being able to contribute to the wider area in which I grew up.

Having always enjoyed writing horror fiction, and stories with more adult themes, you can imagine my surprise when I found myself agreeing to not only write children’s stories, but also to read said stories live, to a group of children. However, I thought this would be equally as exciting as it would be challenging, and decided to throw myself headfirst into a new discipline, utilising my admittedly limited experience, and regretting not taking the ‘Writing for Children’ module in my second year of University all the while.

However, I soon found the pieces were developing, and having a younger target audience to be altogether more freeing. Whereas in my usual pieces, 1000 words would hardly have got my character from one end of the street to the other, in these pieces they had already zipped around the Malvern Hills in race cars or written an entire novel from their bedroom. And the prompts provided, building off of Malvern’s rich history, were both stimulating whilst allowing me the creative freedom to create a story which I still felt was mine. As for the live reading, it was incredibly fun, and it was a hard to describe feeling (a bad sentence for a writer) when I saw the enthusiasm of the young children and their engagement with pieces I had created.

Altogether, I found my time with the Route to the Hills project to be a fulfilling project; it challenged me to radically change my style of writing, and in doing so helped develop my skills and confidence in tackling new ideas, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys writing.

Please see below for copies of the three short stories Michael wrote;

That's a Wrap

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For the last 18 months Perfect Circle has been working with various local community groups to produce a theatrical production which portrays some of Malvern's unique stories. In July the show went live, with over 162 people seeing the show at Great Malvern Priory, and many more watching the smaller performances in the weeks leading up to the play. Reviewer Nigel Turner writes about his experiences of the production. 

The “Route to the Hills” initiative is designed to celebrate the richness and diversity of Great Malvern’s heritage and culture, from earliest times right up to the present day.    Malvern’s Perfect Circle Theatre Company, which has established itself as a leading Youth Theatre company in the region, joined forces with this initiative, researching, devising and finally presenting an original piece of community theatre, based upon the memories and aspirations of a wide range of folk who live on Malvern’s slopes. It was thus entitled “The Folks from the Slopes” and was performed aptly in Malvern Priory, the very centre of the town,  on the 14th and 15th July.

From the first, it was made clear to us that we were being welcomed into the Priory, not to be lectured at, but to be invited to share in different people’s experiences of life in their communities, on these slopes.  We were to expect a variety of styles of presentation — film, dance, song, poetry, sketches, interviews.  Furthermore, we should be prepared to move to different parts of the building.  An appreciation of this ancient interior was thus to be a vital aspect of the whole experience.

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The residents from Clarence Park opened the proceedings, sharing their memories on film. Nevertheless we felt that they were speaking directly to us, without exception revealing a quiet pride in their achievements in many diverse fields. A picture emerged of individual lives making up the complex patterns within a community, seeking fulfillment at work, at play, in friendship, in helping others as well as themselves, in growing older.

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Pride of a more directly infectious quality was very evident in the next item, as pupils from Northleigh Primary School revealed its extraordinary history,from total destruction by fire to its rebirth with another school in a brand-new building. The pupils involved us in the story, first through a very clearly delivered shared narration and then through a sequence of vigorous dance and mime , which culminated in a moment of extraordinary emotional power, as we witnessed the two schools being united together into a circle before us.  There could have been few dry eyes in the house.

 A sudden shift in location signaled a complete change in style and focus.  Behind the high altar, a small group of local poets and singers waited for us to arrive, to commemorate with us the lives of famous [or notorious] Malvern women.  This item was boldly delivered, with sudden shifts in style and intonation.  We veered sharply from Dame Laura Knight, through Lady Emily Foley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and on to the morally ambiguous, possibly victimised Florence Bravo — all women who courted controversy, asserted their individuality and refused to be categorized.  We were left with a feeling   that much has yet to be resolved.  

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 But little time to reflect—  we’re on the move again, to the other side of the altar and squeezing into St Ann’s Chapel, to be entertained by an experienced group of Malvern amateur actors, performing a devised piece celebrating the arrival of the Radar ‘boffins’ in WW2, and the subsequent growth of Malvern’s scientific community.  Each player demonstrated versatility by playing multiple roles, thus also celebrating the well-established interest in theatre and drama within the life of the town; possibly also nudging us to reflect upon Malvern as a vital centre both for scientific research and for the performing arts.

 A final move into the Chancel, to sit in the choir stalls. It was fitting that the concluding item should be presented by some young people from Malvern whose experiences and skills have been enhanced by their membership of the Perfect Circle Theatre Company.  Ostensibly a ‘Malvern journey based on interviews’ to find out what the folk of Malvern liked about the place, its focus rapidly started to shift in multiple directions: how can we make something out of nothing— is Shakespeare useful as a fall-back — how about escaping to the secret park of the imagination — let’s bring on a couple of dogs —-  are famous people to be revered or laughed at, or both —  how to work the audience— how to learn lists of names—- why bother—how and when to stop ———.In short, a celebration of Theatre, full of the irreverent creativity of youth, brought our journey round this ancient Priory to a thought-provoking yet highly satisfying conclusion.

Take a seat on a piece of the past

Have you spotted anything new around town recently? Next time you you pop over to Church Street, or take a stroll in Rose Bank Gardens, we challenge you to spot our five new benches that have recently been installed.

Each bench has a unique bench-end which depicts a story or legend linked to Malvern’s history. Designs includethe following;

  • The goat legs and cloven hooves of Mr Tumnus from the Chronicles of Narnia (a reference to Malvern providing the inspiration for CS Lewis’ much-loved children’s books)
  • Florence Nightingale’s beloved cat and writing implements (Florence took the waters several times in Malvern and owned over 60 cats throughout her life)
  •  The wheel of a Morgan car (The first Morgan Factory opened in 1905 on Chestnut Villa in Malvern Link)
  • The shield and axe of Caractacus  (An ancient British chieftain who according to folklore made his last stand at British Camp. The legend inspired Elgar to write his Caractacus Cantata)
  • The head of a donkey (donkeys use to carry patients up the hills)

The benches can be found in Priory Park, Lyttleton Well, Rose Bank Gardens, outside the Post Office and on Belle Vue Island. A small plaque will be fixed to each one at a later date to explain the story behind each design.