It’s always lovely to go up to Worcestershire for the weekend to visit my daughter. I go from busy city living to a weekend in a 16th century farmhouse surrounded by fields and beautiful views. And, most importantly, I get to spend some time with my lovely daughter, her wife, and my 4-year-old grandson.
It was Nicola’s birthday weekend – her actual birthday is on Monday but we started celebrations on Friday evening by opening champagne and getting into party mood. On Saturday, the plan was to go to Malvern for a birthday outing. I’ve been wanting to go to Malvern for some time and – depending on which route I take to visit my daughter – have a few times passed the exit for Malvern and thought I must stop off some time. So when I was told that was where we were heading, I was delighted. It’s only a 36-minute drive from their house, so easily accessible and they’d been before and even knew the best car park to head to!
Malvern is a spa town in Worcestershire, on the border of Herefordshire. It lies within the Malvern Hills, which is designated An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Great Malvern is the historic centre which grew considerably in Victoria times with the discovery of natural mineral water springs in the area. Malvern spring water is well known and the bottling of the Holy Well water goes back as far as 1622. However, commercial bottling didn’t begin until 1850 when Schweppes bottled the water. They were later taken over by Coca-Cola who stopped the bottling in 2010. It is now bottled – on a less commercial scale – by the Hollywell Spring Water Co. in Malvern Wells. It is known that Queen Elizabeth I drank the water back in the 16th century and the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth II is reported to have never travelled without it.
Sadly, we woke to inclement weather with rain forecast for late morning. In the end, it didn’t actually rain until later in the afternoon as we were starting to head back to the car, but it was grey, cloudy and damp so we did miss out on enjoying the best of the views as we drove towards the town and the Malvern Hills came into sight. Neither could we see the Hills well from the town itself. On the drive home we took a scenic route, and while we got an idea of the beauty to some extent, I hope to repeat it on a sunny day and enjoy its full glory! But the rain didn’t dampen our enjoyment of an outing together. There was still much to enjoy and Malvern itself didn’t disappoint.
From the car park, we walked up through a park towards the theatre. There was a great children’s playground there so we stopped for a while for Rufus to play.
We walked through a market and headed to the restaurant that Rachael had found online: The Terrace on the Hill, a cafe/brasserie. It turned out to be perfect for lunch.
The staff were all friendly and welcoming and we were given a table in one of the windows.
Menus came, then a plate with a sweet little pat of local butter. None of us were drinking alcohol so were pleased to see they had a good choice of Fentimans sparkling drinks.
A selection of excellent little homemade rolls came.
The main menu offered soups (all £8.95), Salads (£8.95 as a starter; £12.95 as a main), and Pasta & Risotto (£13.95). There were great, tempting choices. Rachael and I chose Spinach, courgette, chilli & hazelnut tagliatelle with lemon & pecorino. It was gorgeous, really good.
Nicola had Tom Kha Gai – Thai spiced coconut, chicken and noodle soup. It looked great and she said it was very good.
Rufus wanted one of the brunch choices: Grilled sourdough, avocado, roast tomatoes, pancetta & poached egg (£9.95). They were very helpful about accommodating a 4-year-olds preferences so swapped the pancetta for smoked salmon and served the avocado simply, with no dressing. It looked a great choice.
There was an array of tempting cakes on the counter as we came in. Rufus chose a muffin with strawberries on top (he loves strawberries!) and Nicola and Rachael shared a slice of tart topped with pistachios. I decided to have just a coffee, which turned out to be the only disappointment of the lunch – a rather watery Americano, most of which I left. We really liked the restaurant though and I’d definitely like to go back.
Back outside, we headed down towards the market again. We passed a row of lots of vintage cars, including an old police car. It was great fun to see them.
We met a town crier, who kindly let Rufus try on his hat and ring his handbell. Then we saw a choir gathering for Christmas songs.
Walking through the market, there were some really good stalls. Sometimes markets like this, especially at Christmas, can be disappointing with cheap offerings, but this one was more of an artisan market, with locals beers, chocolate, chutneys; stalls selling street food and one selling some beautiful Christmas wreaths that Nicola and Rachael couldn’t resist. So now a large, gorgeous wreath is hanging on their front door!
We passed through the Abbey Gateway and once past the market and heading down towards the car park, we could see the Great Malvern Priory on our left. It was originally a Benedictine Monastery in 1075 and is now an Anglican parish church. You can go inside but we decided to leave that for another day.
It was a lovely outing, despite the weather, and I liked Malvern a lot. I hope to go back in the spring when the weather is warmer and the days longer. Meanwhile, taking a first look at it with my family made a special day.