Emboldened by the commercial (15 reads) and critical (1 comment) success of the debut post, there seemed to be only one logical course of action – a sequel. Thus, within a day, The Hills of home – Part One was followed by the imaginatively titled The Hills of home – Part Two.
Where it all began: The Hills of home – Part Two
The Clent hills will be familiar to anyone who has ever driven the first two or three junctions of the M5; just about where the urban sprawl of the West Midlands finally surrenders its grip and the landscape takes on a somewhat more bucolic aspect. Their double humped profile stands well clear of the surrounding land and in winter months the main hill is topped off by a distinctive Mohawk fringe of Beech trees temporarily stripped of their leaves. In terms of height they are unspectacular, topping out at just over the thousand foot mark, but height alone isn’t always the point.
There are obvious paths which are well walked; sufficiently so at times as to be best avoided. More interesting is the latticework of smaller paths which cross and re-cross the hills, connecting the main tracks and providing opportunities to walk a good part of a day and not cover the same ground twice. There are hidden depths here too, in more than one sense of the expression: tracks which dive away into the deeper hollows; places where almost no one goes, even at the height of summer. Places too where folds in the landscape insulate out any traces of traffic noise, and it’s easy enough to separate yourself from the dog walkers and recreational weekenders. On the other hand, those of a sociable disposition are well catered for (literally so) at the National Trust visitor centre and can partake of one of their excellent array of healthy options: bacon sandwich, sausage sandwich, bacon AND sausage sandwich, cheese (lots of it) on toast and various other delights.
The character of the hills varies considerably with the changing seasons. Minor paths can disappear as summer reaches its height, only to reappear again as autumn sets in. From the tops there are views of many of the hills of Worcestershire and Shropshire – The Malverns, The Clees, The Wrekin, Long Mynd – and, on those (surprisingly frequent) days when the air is clear, all the way to the Beacons, Cotswolds and even the shadowy forms of the high Berwyn summits some 60 miles distant.
There’s a variety of birdlife in and around the hills, some of it with seasonal variations. At least three varieties of raptor – Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard – seem able to coexist and survive; it will be interesting to see if Red Kite eventually manage to gatecrash the party. There are Raven here too; resident it seems and not just itinerants. Jay seem to have established a particular stronghold throughout the area and it is possible to see Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Siskin, Long-tailed Tits and numerous other varieties on a regular basis. Crossbill are also a possibility but to date I’ve not been that lucky.
The hills form part of the North Worcestershire grouping and are included in a number of LDP routes, including the LDWA (Long distance walkers association) North Worcestershire Hills Marathon