What it's like
Worcestershire consists of a central plain ringed by hills, all modest in height but with their own distinctive characteristics. The mostly bare tops of the Malverns contrast sharply with the lush, jungly dingles cut deep into the rumpled Temeside hills. The sheltered cherry orchards of the north-western hills are a world away from the sheep-grazed turf of Bredon in the south, with its gnarled, stunted hawthorns revealing the direction of the prevailing wind.
The plain is dissected by three major rivers – Avon, Teme and Severn – as well as by a wealth of lesser rivers and brooks. With their fringing willows and peaceful water meadows, the rivers provide pleasant walking routes and picnic sites. Two canals, the Worcester and Birmingham and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire, also enhance the landscape and offer the chance for a spot of gongoozling (watching inept boat users trying to steer through the numerous locks). More water comes in the form of attractively landscaped reservoirs and abundant pools resulting from gravel extraction, making Worcestershire a good destination for birdwatchers. Architecturally speaking, the county doesn’t really do grand and showy, with only a few impressive stately homes or castles. But there is a wonderful abundance of beautiful farmhouses and cottages and some marvellous village churches. The local vernacular has great variety: the mellow red Midland brick; the irresistible black-and-white timber framing; and the different colours and textures of the stone, from the pink and red sandstones of the north to the golden and honey-hued Cotswold limestones of the south.
- End-to-end in the Malvern Hills With open access, and 160km of paths, the Malverns offer walks to suit all abilities (you don’t even need to go uphill) but the finest outing of all has to be the 16-km linear walk along the entire ridge, from End Hill to Chase End Hill.
- Wyre Forest Combine walking and wildlife spotting in Wyre Forest, one of the UK’s largest surviving areas of semi-natural ancient woodland. Good starting points include the lovely Severnside town of Bewdley or the nearby Forestry Commission Visitor Centre.
- Bredon HillClimb Bredon Hill to enjoy the view of the ‘coloured counties’ celebrated by the poet A E Housman, and search out the limestone-loving wild flowers which grow on the site of the Iron Age hillfort. Or walk round the hill instead, through the charming villages built on the spring-line.
Must see and do
- Ride the Severn Valley RailwayThe most popular preserved steam line in the UK, its beautifully restored stations allow access to wonderful Severn Valley walks. www.svr.co.uk
- Explore the orchardsRepositories of traditional local varieties such as Peasgood Nonesuch and Pitmaston Duchess, the western orchards are great places to walk. Help them survive by buying locally produced cider and perry (made from pears, and reputedly Sir Edward Elgar’s favourite tipple).
- Search for troglodytesExplore the north-west, where the sandstone is riddled with cave homes occupied until the 1960s. Wolverley or Kingsford are good places to begin. Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant lives nearby and has been known to knock back a pint or two at the pub in Wolverley.
Destination County : Worcestershire