January 30, 2016
Due to the severe lack of sunshine and being cooped up inside for three weeks, we decided a day spent outside Birmingham was well in order. We decided to keep it close to "home" while getting as far away from city life as possible, so we settled on hiking the Malvern Hills.
That morning we hopped on the train and headed to Malvern. There was a massive group of early college-aged kids all decked out in hiking gear sitting/horsing around near us, and we deduced that they probably had the same plans we did. The last thing we wanted to do was hike alongside a large group of loud and crazy young adults, so we decided to get off one stop early. Well, in all honesty, we had toyed with that idea anyway because we knew people would be generally doing the same thing as those college kids, but they settled the matter for us without knowing it.
Since we like to do these things a bit backward anyway, we just explored the town and found our way. After we got off the train, we made our way through a gorgeous neighborhood and some sort of university grounds. They offered some truly quaint and beautiful views along the way! The beginning of our actual trek started along the public footpaths. They were so steep! A couple of places had metal hand rails to hold onto in the middle of the path as you made your way up or down, and we weren't shy about using them. If you have ever been to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, that's what the roads and footpaths reminded us of - steep and winding all the way up. We got a workout in before we even got to the hills! And there were so many stairs. But they were annoying stairs. One of my pet peeves is walking stairs that are too far apart to take one step at a time but too close to take two steps, so you have to do a little jig in order to use both legs evenly and keep a good pace. I eventually found a rhythm, but it's always so irritating until I get into a groove.
It took quite a bit longer than we expected to get to the hills from our starting point, but it was a beautiful walk and we got to know the town a bit better on our way. The only thing was that we had to stop what seemed like a hundred times because of one reason or another; we had just purchased new hiking/outdoor gear and were fiddling around with it nonstop. When the sun was out, there seemed to be no wind and I was purely melting in my fleece-lined jacket, so I would take it off; then the sun would go away after we rounded a corner and the wind would kick up, so I stopped and put my jacket back on because I was freezing cold. Then we had a new backpacking backpack and it was our first time to pack one of those things - we had our extra layers, snacks, water bottles, and lunch in there, but we had no idea that putting the tupperware containers on the bottom would drive me crazy. I'm a bit too short for that backpack to be rigidly packed, so we were adjusting Patrick's layers and my layers and the backpack on him and the backpack on me, stopping for water and stopping to blow our noses and putting on our gloves and taking them off, looking at maps and turning this way and that. We were glad to get to the hills and have our kinks worked out, let's put it that way!
Once we did get to the hills, we were in love. The wind was brutal up there, but the views were killer.
When I say the wind was brutal, that's probably an understatement. It was intense, and it was cold. Patrick ended up getting really crabby because it was nonstop wind gusts in our faces. Once or twice the wind was so strong that it literally pushed me and even knocked me off my feet a bit. The cold didn't help one bit... that was the icing on the cake. Never in my life have I had my own snot flung across my face until this trek... gross! My nose would be running but I had no idea because I couldn't feel it; then a gust of wind would come and smack I'd feel snot across my cheek. Haha! What a sight!
To add to the frustrations, we had recently updated our phones and mine had decided to be a complete jerk (I repel technology; I hate updating my phone because it always either doesn't work or screws things up). The problem that day was that it would randomly shut itself off, not turn back on, and claim it was out of battery - most often while I was trying to take video. Then it would remain off with zero battery for a good ten or twenty minutes; after that, I could turn it back on and it would say that I had 78% battery or something. Talk about frustrating! So I had to flip back and forth between using my phone and Patrick's phone. He was irritated about the cold and the wind; I was irritated about my phone.
Like I said, though, the views were incredible. We could see for ages and even heard the church bells ringing for quite a while in the valley down below. At one point on our trek, we even encountered a couple of Scottish Highland Cows! There were two: one light colored, long haired cow sitting next to the path on the top; the other a darker, shorter brown haired cow who was sitting down the hill a ways, sheltered from the ripping winds (we call that one the smart cow).
We made it a point of hiking to the top and taking some pictures from Worcestershire Beacon - the highest point of the hills sitting at 1395 ft. elevation. Talk about a view! The landscape felt like something out of Middle Earth the whole time we walked along the hills, and it was so lovely being able to look out and see the horizon. After taking some photos at The Beacon, we made our way back down the hillside. The light extinguishes itself rather quickly in January and we didn't want to get caught in the hills without light and without knowing where we were. Plus the fact that we were freezing and Patrick was more than ready to leave... hah.
After making it back into town, we wandered around a bit. We got coffee so we could warm up; the wifi connection was a perk. Then we peeked around the corner and made our way into the Malvern Priory which, according to the signage, is over 900 years old. There are some fantastic tiles from the 15th century, now preserved but on display after the 19th century replicas replaced them on the actual floor. There was still about an hour until our train's departure, so we decided to go to a pub and grab a cuppa and continue to thaw out while we waited. I remember some woman brought in a tiny yippie rat-dog that wandered around the pub and wasn't shy of meandering toward other customers. I was annoyed at our unwanted company, but we left soon enough so it wasn't a bother for long.
This next series of photos cracks me up! I was trying to get a good picture of the two of us during our hike, but Patrick wasn't cooperating. I love looking at the progression of his facial expressions! You could see how he really felt by the end... hehe.
|Patrick's feeling the grass here. It was so weird - spongey and mossy but completely dry!|
If you've made it through all those photos, you deserve to watch the video. ;) About 1 minute in, you can really see just how windy it actually was up there... and precisely why Patrick was so beside himself!
One thing I've forgotten to mention: Apparently C.S. Lewis attended school in Malvern, and in his later years he would return to walk the hills with J.R.R. Tolkien. Crazy, right?! So awesome. And for any music buffs, Malvern was the home of Elgar - composer of The Enigma Variations. Pretty neat!
We took our train back to Birmingham and nearly fell asleep on our trip - we were exhausted! The last thing you want to do after a long day of hiking is make a 15 minute walk home that involves several bouts of stairs and uphill battles amidst a swarm of people ready to party on a Saturday night, but walk home we must. As soon as we walked into our flat and rid ourselves of our gear, we took showers, got cozy in our pajamas, and warmed up with some more tea. We just couldn't get warm after such a long day out in the freezing wind. I remember that the both of us were rather stiff and majorly sore for the next few days, but it was a wonderful day out of Birmingham regardless. Hopefully we'll get to go back for another hike when the weather isn't so brutal!