WALKING up from Wynds Point to Clutter’s Cave and back through Little Malvern brings us into the arena of some of our local favourites.

In the 300th year of the Three Choirs Festival it’s fitting that we visit Edward Elgar’s cherished Malvern Hills.

His cantata Caractacus tells the story of a British chieftain who fought the Roman invaders.

Succumbing in the musical version at British Camp, Caractacus was taken to Rome for trial but so impressed Emperor Claudius that he gained a pardon.

The spectacular Iron Age hillfort, just above our route, may well have housed the British leader at some point and a settlement of two thousand altogether, but the history written by Tacitus suggests a different place for his last stand. Coxhall Knoll, near Leintwardine, visited on a previous walk, is perhaps a more likely venue.

There are sensational views from the Malverns across the Severn Plain to the east and the undulations of Herefordshire in the west.

Legend has it that the fugitive Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr hid away up here from the forces of Henry V.

The suggested site, just a little south of British Camp is Clutter’s Cave (pictured).

It takes quite a leap of faith back to those early 15th century days, because solitude is ephemeral these days; in the summer months it’s tempting to think there are still two thousand people up on the ridge.

Hereford’s Alfred Watkins, the discoverer of leylines, who lived almost completely concurrently with Elgar, had his own theories about Clutter’s Cave.

He cites it as the beginning of an ancient trackway stretching all the way to Aconbury Camp.

Along its course, it takes in a stone, three churches, a Gospel Oak, and about eight small fragments of old roads; the buildings of two of the churches are oriented exactly to its alignment.

Just for good measure, he suggests that the stone, which is just below Clutter’s Cave, was a sacrificial one.

As proof, he famously photographed his uncomplaining assistant, Mr McKaig lying on its smooth face, in such a way as to present his head for execution.

In a new introduction to his seminal work, The Old Straight Track, writer Robert MacFarlane acknowledges our debt: “Herefordshire was, for Watkins, a deep-time landscape in which legends easily mustered themselves, and in which ancient history was thickly layered…To many of his readers the ley vision - with its mixture of mysticism, archaeology and sleuthing - re-enchanted the English landscape, investing it with fresh depth and detail, prompting new ways of looking and new reasons to walk.

To read The Old Straight Track now is to be summoned back to a fascinating crossroads in landscape history.”

After passing the area of Little Malvern Priory, whose one time errant monk placed a curse on Raggedstone Hill at the south end of the Malverns, we come to St Wulstan’s Church. Here are the graves of Sir Edward, Ann and daughter Carice Elgar Blake.

Finally, a stiff climb up to Black Hill visits the environs of the “Swedish Nightingale”, Jenny Lind.

The opera singer was a close friend of Felix Mendelssohn, Lewis Carroll and Hans Christian Anderson.

She lived here for four years in the 1880s, when Elgar was organist at St George’s in Worcester, embarking on his composing, and Alfred Watkins was photographing the Herefordshire countryside.

Below her old home is a memorial plaque to Sir Barry Jackson, friend of the Dymock Poets and founder of Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Overall, the hilly walk offers great views and has enough variations on the enigma of Owain Glyndwr’s hidey-holes and Caractacus’s last stand to keep us entertained.

Hereford Times:

Little Malvern, Shadybank Common. Hill paths and field edges.

Moderate/strenuous 4 mile ramble with spectacular views. No stiles. Good terrain.

Map: OS Explorer 190, Malvern Hills.

Bus 44B calls at the Malvern Hills Hotel.

The Route

1. British Camp Pay and Display Car Park, Wynds Point. Away from the Malvern Hills Hotel, half way down the park, TR through wooden gate with “Broad Down and British Camp” inscribed on wall. Head up the wide aggregate path, ignoring turns.

Just past the bench in memorial to the centurion Lily Jane Aldous, spectacular views open out over British Camp Reservoir to the left across the Severn Plain. Wind along the great path until it ends at a slight crest and kink over 20m to the right through a gap.

2. Round Indicator Stone. Find your direction marker on the ground to the left, and follow the lower path ahead, slightly R of your original direction, for “Giants Cave and Pink Cottage”. (Views now to the west).

Follow the path past Clutter’s Cave, beneath Hangman’s Hill, down through trees beyond a turning (L) to Broad Down, 30m further to find a five way path intersection.

3. Five Ways. TL for “Castlemorton and Pink Cottage”, along grassy path. Pass to the L of Pink Cottage up slope beyond it along the wide hedged path. Soon, take the rocky, uneven path, to the L down through the trees. Initially gloomy, it becomes level and grassy, emerging from the trees, with Dales Hall at the end of a farm track, below to R.

4. Shadybank Common. At rutted track below telegraph line, TL to follow the T-line through a shaded bridle gate. Keep ahead along top L edge/hedge. Drop down through gate (L ), follow farm track to R of Underhill Farm and up drive on other side. Pass the topiaried, tantalising Little Malvern Court. TL at road up to T- junction. TR as if for Malvern to St Wulstan’s Church.

5. Elgar’s Grave. Visit the family graves and return to road to resume same direction. 75m past turn for Upper Welland, cross to Holywell Road. After 30 paces, T sharp L up wide path. Ignore turns and climb stiffly, through gate, past bench in memory of Leslie James Guest and through gate. Take first left on to Black Hill for fabulous 360 degree views.

Keep ahead over two small peaks down and up gravel path under trees past a line of benches and the memorial to Barry Vincent Jackson. (Jenny Lind’s old home at Wynds Point is up to L behind a fence). Reach road and TL past hotel to Start Point.