Gloucester to Alcester
Across the Severn plain and Malvern Hills into the Avon valley
Follow the route - Gloucester to Alcester
> From Gloucester take the A417 for 17 miles (27km) to Ledbury.
The unspoiled market town of Ledbury, with its half-timbered buildings, has many literary links: Robert Browning and William Wordsworth used to visit, and John Masefield was born here. Elizabeth Barrett Browning spent her childhood at Hope End, just out of town, and her father lies buried in the north aisle of St Michael’s Church. One of the most attractive buildings is the 16th-century Feathers Inn, and Ledbury Park is the house Prince Rupert used as his headquarters during the Civil War. Nineteenth-century Eastnor Castle, with its impressive interior, is surrounded by a beautiful park.
Places to stay in Ledbury
> Head north on the A449 and then the B4232 through Wynds Gap and on to Great Malvern, 8 miles (13km).
Visiting Great Malvern
Pure spring water from the Malvern Hills made this a popular spa town in Victorian days. A steep flight of steps by the Mount Pleasant Hotel leads up to St Anne’s Well, the source of this water. The town is centred round its greatest treasure, the Priory Church of St Mary and St Michael, which contains exquisite 15th- and 16th-century stained glass and beautiful tiles. Malvern Museum portrays the town through the ages, and there is an elegant Victorian bandstand where bands play on Sunday afternoons in summer.
Places to stay in Great Malvern
> Take the B4211 to Upton-upon-Severn, turning left on to the A4104, and in 1 mile (1.6km) right on to the A38 to Tewkesbury.
Almost all Tewkesbury’s buildings are old timber-framed structures, notably the Bell Inn, and the Royal Hop Pole Inn is mentioned in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Tewkesbury Abbey is one of the finest Norman abbeys in the country and contains several medieval stained-glass windows.
Places to stay in Tewkesbury
> Return on the A38 for a short distance, then take the B4080 to Bredon.
Bredon, alongside the River Avon, at the foot of Bredon Hill, is a picturebook village. Its impressive Norman church has a graceful spire which soars 160 feet (48m) high, and the tithe barn dates from the 14th century. A mile (1.6km) east is the village of Kemerton, with its fine church. Overbury Park, just outside the village, leads to Bredon Hill, which rises to 961 feet (293m). It has a fine Gothic folly on its slopes and the remains of prehistoric and Roman earthworks on its summit.
Places to stay in Bredon
> Continue along an unclassified road through Kemerton and Beckford, then take the A46 to Evesham.
Evesham is a market town in the heart of the Vale of Evesham, noted for its fruit blossom in spring. A 15th-century half-timbered gateway in the market-place is one of the few remains of Evesham Abbey.
At the centre of town is the 110-foot (33m) high Bell Tower, which was built in 1539. There are two fine churches: 12th-century All Saints’ Church and the Church of St Lawrence. A plaque near the river marks the burial spot of Simon de Montfort, the ‘father of the English parliament’, who led barons in revolt against Henry III and was killed at the Battle of Evesham in 1265.
Places to stay near Evesham
> Take the B4088 and an unclassified road to Alcester.
Pronounced ‘Olster’, this former Roman town contains many old streets and houses, notably Malt Mill Lane, which is lined with ancient houses. Coughton Court, 2 miles (3km) to the north, is the family home of the Throckmortons, who were implicated in the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in 1605. The house contains the ‘Throckmorton coat’, which was made in 1811 to prove that it was possible to take the wool off a sheep and produce a coat from it in one day! Southwest of town is Ragley Hall, a Jacobean mansion whose great hall is decorated with exquisite rococo plasterwork.