By: Blonde Two
I have some very fond memories of growing up in Malvern and of having such free access to the Malvern Hills. My first school was North Malvern Infants (the building is apartments now) which perched on the edge of the Malvern Hills directly opposite a quarry. Quarrying ended in 1970 which was before I started school.
The history of the quarry and of the two water tanks there is fascinating but my memories are just of a rather special ‘playground’ in a spot that, sadly, nobody would dare to take kids to play in today.
We had a ‘normal’ playground at the back of the school but on summer lunchtimes, our teachers would crocodile us out of the front door, cross us over the road and lead us up the path to play in the old quarry yard. The yard was a place of endless adventure and imagination for us youngsters. It was, by that time, a wide, flat, grassy space with a clock tower and some very exciting rocks. Rocks, I would like to point out, can be exciting but I wouldn’t recommend anyone admitting to this in an (unsuccessful) interview as I did the other day.
There were two particular rocks that we were allowed to play on – please bear in mind that these were at the bottom of quarry faces and would never pass a risk assessment today. The first was The Flattie and all but the youngest were allowed to play on it. Accessing The Flattie involved a bit of a scramble to the top and then a slide (knickers were stronger and almost certainly more visible in those days) back to terra firma. My sister and I visited The Flattie yesterday and did manage to climb up despite there now being all manner of plant life surrounding it.
The second rock was only an option for those in Class Six and could only be visited with special permission. To access The Biggie, you had to ask the sentry (I mean teacher) if you could, “Go round the corner.” The corner is pictured below and hasn’t really change that much.
Once you were, “Round the corner.” you were allowed to scramble to your heart’s content up and down The Biggie. Like The Flattie, The Biggie is now overgrown but you can see from the picture below that it would be forbidden without safety hats and probably high visibility jackets today.
Back in the late Fifties I was in the Scouts. We used to visit an old farmhouse owned by the association on the slopes of Great Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales called Hag Dyke. Dow Cave was perhaps half a mile away and the scoutmaster, who was more organiser than outdoorie let groups of us wander off into the cave unaccompanied. There may be four or five of us with torches and candles, age range 13 to 15 and we would explore along ledges twenty feet above the stream bed. Dow was connected by a very long, notorious passage called Dowber Ghyll Passage to Providence Pot in the adjacent valley, and we also made vertical descents into Providence unaccompanied exploring quite a long way into the tortuous system.
A few years later (after leaving school) a group of youngsters I knew were subjects of a dramatic rescue from Dowber Ghyll Passage making national headlines. One of them was the brother of the well known British climber Ian Clough who was later killed on Bonnington’s Anna Purna expedition.
Used to climb on the Biggie (if it’s the small crag round the corner from the clock tower car park) with proper ropes and everything, early 90s when at Uni. My first (and last!) forward abseil took place there. Doesn’t look safe now!
Nooooo – you know the Biggie. That is amazing!! I bet you have also climbed the face by pulpit rock (another childhood memory) Ivy Scar or something like that. Just up the main path towards St Anne’s Well.
Ooooh, now you mention it, it might have been Ivy Scar. But I still know the biggie!
I am glad I had no idea what the Biggie and Flattie looked like when you used to come home from school chattering excitedly about them! Still, I am sure they are the forerunners of your love for Dartmoor! x
I’m sorry for today’s kids. I wish they could be let off their leads!
Later, of course, you would have to familiarise yourself with Malvern’s crazy road system, set out as if the road planner were a giant under-informed vintner. Roads terrassed like vineyards to accommodate the steep sideways slope, not wide enough to allow two cars’ widths – yet jammed with cars since there was no space for garages or driveways. We used to visit the theatre a lot (well endowed, full of swanks) but there was always a bit of an edge driving back to Hereford in the dark.
Oh, and those laughable road lights. Very chic but too short and gas powered. In some cases the yellowy glow hardly reached the pavement.
Even without The Biggie and The Flattie I’ve had my moments in Malvern. Scouting out the Marches before we settled in Hereford we walked round Malvern but decided its gradients would hurry up our ageing process.