Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Heading for the hills
Yesterday I went on a coach trip to Great Malvern in Worcestershire. It was a press trip for the local magazine, and one that I was really looking forward to. I know coach travel isn't exactly glamorous, but I like it because it's so relaxing. No worries about sat nav, parking, petrol prices....it's a very civilised way to get around. Plus, I love the Malvern Hills. I've only been a couple of times, as a child, and I have such wonderful memories of this area. Woods and gentle hills, and timbered houses is how I remember it.
Great Malvern is a spa town, with the most graceful buildings, and a stunning priory. Unfortunately, it was very foggy, so we couldn't see much of the hills rising behind. I was longing for the sun to come out, but it didn't show, but we still much enjoyed exploring. There are some intriguing little shops of the vintage variety:
The high street is surviving, just, with lots of health food shops and tea shops in evidence. This one, the Bluebird Tea Room, was our lunch stop:
Even the big names, such as W H Smith, had intriguing little details on the outside of their stores, legacy of another time.
Everywhere we turned, there was an impressive building. The cream house looks very mysterious in the mist:
This is Elgar, who was born nearby.
The layout of the town is apparently down to the wife of a nobleman, Lady Foley. She did some nifty town planning in the 1800s, hence the large number of landscaped gardens and enormous dwellings (many are now flats). One of our best discoveries was at the station, half a mile out of the town centre, where there is a wonderful tea room named after Lady Foley. This is undoubtedly the nicest station I have ever been in, and it's a working station with modern trains, not a steam railway. Isn't this the best?
This is the little tea room on the station (No Starbucks or Costa here). You can buy a pot of tea and a hot buttered crumpet or toasted teacake for a couple of pounds. The walls are decorated with William Morris wallpaper and photos of Celia Johnson in the classic movie, Brief Encounter. It is the most Brief Encounter-ish station ever.* It was renovated in 1986 after a fire and a brilliant job has been done.
We were so busy looking and walking that we didn't actually do much shopping, although I did make a purchase at the antiques centre. I am notorious for buying impractical items on day trips, and have toted numerous old chairs and pine cupboards home on the train. I once popped out to buy a carton of apple juice for a picnic and returned with a table. Today's buy wasn't quite so enormous, but it did require our very kind coach driver to make a few adjustments (see below)....
* A reader has just pointed out that the real Brief Encounter station is in Carnforth :) I did not know that, and now I need to visit there, too.