Once, or so my late grandfather told me, there was man who built walls on the side of the Malvern Hills. He’d once been a plumber, as well as having a natural sense of humour, which he poured into his bricklaying by placing taps in the middle of the walls. The wall he built has three taps, slightly scratched with age, between the rough stone. When I was young, it seemed as if the wall with taps were the same age as the hills. It still feels like it now.
My grandparents used to live in West Malvern, on the side of the Malvern Hills, in a big house that had views out toward Wales. Just around the corner from them was the wall with the taps stuck into it. Our grandfather would take my sister, cousin and me out walking and we’d try and find the taps, standing in front of them to hide them from where he was looking. It was the routine part of the walk up the hill that marked the beginning of an adventure into the unknown wilds that lay for us at the top.
This morning, we started off walking at the taps in the wall. There was this malicious rumour that existed some time ago that the taps were due to be taken out, but thankfully no-one wants to deny us that type of fun. This morning the hill was flooded in walkers, wrapped up in thick down jackets and cosy knitted hats with delightful pom-poms. As we pulled up away from the taps and began to scale up the true height of the hill, the beauty of walking on a cold winter’s morning became so apparent.
The grass blades were covered with thick frost that made a crunching noise like a horse munching on a apple and the clear cloudless blue skies lent to views of far off hills, framed by elderly pine trees still covered in green needles. We climbed up to Worcestershire Beacon, which is the highest hill on the Malvern Ridge and in Worcestershire, meaning that there is something of a stunning view from the top. The temperature at the top was just above freezing, and with the windchill added in it was probably below that, but the views to the far off mountains of Wales were well worth it.
I’ve always liked the Malverns. They have the majestic commanding views to so many other counties in the heart of England, but also as they have the small, small details like the taps lying in the wall. There are other hills which are far higher, have a far more challenging climb or have a far more glorious view, but the Malverns are peppered with something more than that for me. Memories of being a young boy with blonde hair, out with my grandfather on his early morning walk, standing in front of a tap in the wall as he strolled past before running up the gravely path on the hill towards the sun.