In front of me as I start this post is an ice cold pint of Diet Coke and some rather nice looking daffodils. In all honesty I feel like today (more than most days) I really deserve this drink.
This morning I was wide awake at 2am.
I’m not sure if it was the neighbours having a row that woke me up or whether them shouting at each other only kept me awake – but eventually all I could do was write off the night and get up.
This wasn’t altogether a bad thing though. The clocks had changed and I’d had an early night so it wasn’t the end of the world.
As I sat awake I started looking for places that I might go for a walk today. I was at a loose end for the majority of Sunday, so getting a head start on some exercise seemed like a good way to begin my morning.
Workouts will be especially important to me this week. I have extra motivation thanks to my slower than usual weight loss last week. I want my twelve and a half stone certificate next Saturday, and to get it I need to lose 2.5lbs.
After a little browsing and researching I settled on the Malvern Hills.
I’ve been meaning to go for ages and have suggested it to lots of people but for whatever reason it’s just not happened or the weather has been miserable. Today however the forecast was excellent.
I see the Malvern Hills as a great way to test my limits. I’ve not been challenged by inclines on this level since I started losing weight. If I eventually want to do Snowdon I had to see what my stamina ceiling is.
It was totally dark when I got in the car, but by the time I arrived at my destination the sun was just coming up – and the car park (British Camp) was mostly deserted.
I guess in some respects this location for parking could be considered cheating.
It is after all a good half way up the full height of the hills, and designed for tourism with a hotel and a cafe nearby. According to the online guides however this route is a pretty steep incline and clearly is intended for fitter walkers. Initially I was going to go for another location which was ‘easy access’ with gentler inclines and smoother paths but as I passed British Camp I thought ‘What the hell! You don’t know until you try!’
Although the route I took to the summit wasn’t particularly far the steep slopes and killer steps meant this took me a little while – but nowhere near as long as I expected. I have to say I’m pretty impressed at how long it took for my legs to tire. Although I paused a few times for a breather I was at the top in a surprisingly quick time and admiring the view.
It was pretty windy when I got there so by the time I was standing at the top I really wished I’d bought a scarf as I suddenly had a totally frozen face and I really missed my beard. On the plus side thanks to the exercise I was nice and toasty everywhere else!
The main issue now though was – I was on the top – but what should I do next?
I looked around and quite a way away in the distance I could see a tiny stone column on top of another hill, so I thought I’d see if I could make my way toward it. Before long I’d travelled up and over a few more peaks and found myself at a stone signpost that was pointing at my objective.
Whatever it was it appeared to be on Midsummer hill, and the obelisk was called…. ‘obelisk’.
Descriptive. Clearly at this altitude there’s no need for further explanation.
No matter. An objective is an objective.
The path led through mud, sheep and some light woodland, but just over an hour after I’d left my car I was there! According to my watch I’d walked was just under two and a half miles – but truthfully it had felt quite a bit further.
Although I can clearly now do such a walk with relative ease (and even I felt I was rather brisk given its undulating nature) I’m not used to this kind of terrain at all. My knees really felt the strain on the downward sections.
I’d like to say the monument was a revelation and that revealing its secrets was worth the workout – but apart from being an impressive pile of bricks I can’t mislead you. The inscription was possibly interesting if you’re are a local Malvern historian, but otherwise… not so much.
The view from beside it however was fabulous! The hill that I started at was now teeny tiny (it’s the lump in the middle on the left!)
At this point I thought I’d set my Apple Watch to a walking workout and go back the same way I came to see if I could do it quicker and get my pulse rate higher. The route was almost completely deserted when I started out – so even if I was a sweaty mess very few people would see me if I collapsed in a dripping heap.
I actually ended up getting a little sidetracked however.
I took a slightly longer route back (at least it seemed to be) because of this sign.
A frikkin GIANT’S CAVE?!!!!
How could I pass that up?! It was a cave – big enough for GIANTS!!! I immediately took the alternate path and headed for the underground cavern of wonders.
When I arrived there were already some giants standing at the cave mouth.
However – when I got closer I realised that they were actually a boringly normal family of people with a disappointingly small child and a cute dog.
Furthermore my cave of wonders was SIX FOOT DEEP AND SIX FOOT HIGH.
As the family left they said ‘there’s a giant hand print at the back!!! As they walked away throwing sticks for their delightful pooch I ventured in to see the GIANT HAND PRINT.
So it’s fair to say that Malvenians (or whatever the people who live in this area like to call themselves) are a whimsical bunch like to be understated when describing their monuments and overstated when describing their cracks in rocks and daubing on walls.
It was a good workout though and I can’t complain!
The views were superb and all the the paths were well maintained, clear and easily navigable (if sometimes a little rustic). Sadly though by the time I sat down in the hotel nearby where I’d parked (after travelling back down the really steep slopes at the start of the day) my knees were killing me.
This was a bit annoying – as I felt like I hadn’t done a whole lot. My leg muscles felt like they had way more in them, but my knees (particularly tendons I think) were screaming – a pain I’m not used to at all.
After sitting for a while to let it wear off I decided that since I’d already paid for the all day parking that I’d just take it slow, carry on and walk down the path alongside the road to the bottom of the hill.
I had originally planned to walk the rest of the range of hills behind the hotel as well, but when it came down to it although I wasn’t phased by the prospect of the climb I couldn’t face any more ridiculous downward inclines. The road too was downhill – but nowhere near as bad as the walk I’d just done.
Plus – at least if I walked to the bottom of the hill I’d just stood at the top of (and back up) at least I could say I’d walked completely from the bottom to the top!
As I was heading down with this new objective in mind I noticed toward the bottom of the slope people were leaving a really nice looking church after a morning service with daffodils clutched in their hands. While stepping around them as they got into their cars I noticed that I was standing next to a famous grave.
Sir Edward Elgar was buried in the cemetery, so I thought that while I was there I might as well take a look.
Compared to the cave and the monument this at least delivered on the promise of being a grave. I couldn’t fault its ‘graveness’ and since I’ve never before visited the grave of someone that was famous I think I can tick this off my bucket list.
‘Visited the grave of Elgar.’
Thats one more thing I don’t have to do before I die!
At this point my already painful knees were now really really painful so I decided to walk back up the hill to my car and make my way home.
Again I set my Apple Watch workout to capture what I was doing. Although the lower part of the gradient was gentle it was continuously uphill for over a mile (with 288ft of elevation) and became quite a bit steeper the closer it got to the British Camp car park. My heart rate was continually at 138/140 bpm toward the end and I still felt I could keep going.
I didn’t have to stop once and I actually really enjoyed feeling the burn!
By the time I’d reached my car I’d walked a total of almost nine (pretty punishing) miles around Malvern. During them my watch considered 112 minutes of my movement to be exercise/cardio. I burned 1750/4099 active/total calories – which should help towards the weight I want to lose next week!
Now I’m home and I’m absolutely knackered – but today has been a big step. I’ve experimented and I’ve found yet more places I can go and more things that I can do.
I have walked up and down gradients that not so very long ago I simply wouldn’t have been able to – and regardless of my knees I loved every minute of it!
A year ago internet I wouldn’t have even gotten out of the car. I’d have driven past and looked at the view from within my comfortable little bubble.
Thats never, ever, ever, ever going to happen again.