Did you tune into the programme featuring the Malvern Hills on BBC Countryfile on Sunday 12 December 2021? If you missed it, catch up on BBC Iplayer here. You can also read about our connections to J.R.R Tolkien, C.S Lewis and Sir Edward Elgar in this Countryfile article here.
If you did watch the programme which attracts millions of viewers, you would have seen Andy Stevenson from Point2Guides and a Lecturer at the University of Worcester walking across the Malvern Hills on the NEW Tolkien Walking Story. Malvern Hills District Council commissioned Andy from Point2Guides to develop a brand new series of Walking Stories called ‘The Chronicles of Malvernia’ which each tells a story linked to the myths, tales and legends from across The Malverns.
The Walking Stories connect the magnificent landscape and our unique cultural heritage, with famous authors, including J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis, as well as telling stories about the myth of Caratacus, the legend of The Curse of Ragged Stone Hill, and many more unique stories linked to our distinctive past. William Langland author of Piers Ploughman, who is understood to be the first English literary genius will also be featured.
The J.R.R Tolkien Connection
J.R.R Tolkien, the 20th century literary genius and famous author in the realm of fantasy novels, with his creation of ‘Middle Earth’ in his most renowned works of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of The Rings’ has understated connections with the magnificent Malvern Hills and Great Malvern.
C.S Lewis (the next in the series of ‘The Chronicles of Malvernia’ Walking Stories) brought a friend with him from Oxford to join George Sayer (Head of English at Malvern College and friend of C.S Lewis) to his regular stays in Malvern. This person being none other than J.R.R. Tolkien.
Tolkien soon joined Lewis and Sayer for regular gatherings in the Sayer’s home, for drinks in the local pub, The Unicorn, and for walks on the Hills. These walks with ‘Jack’, ‘Tollers’ and George were a time of wonderful fellowship, joy, and inspiration, but they were also playful affairs, as captured in this anecdote recorded by Sayer:
‘You should have seen Jack (C.S Lewis) trying to walk with J.R.R. Tolkien! Once Jack got started, a bomb could not have stopped him and the more he walked, the more energy he had for a good argument. Now Tolkien was just the opposite. If he had something to say, he wanted you to stop so he could look you in the face. So, on they would go, Jack charging ahead and Tolkien pulling at him, trying to get him to stop – back and forth, back and forth. What a scene!’
Is it little wonder than that Tolkien invented, and felt an affinity for, Hobbits! The influence of The Malverns upon Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth was both general and specific. For example, in Middle Earth, the border between the kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor is marked by the Ered Nimrais mountain range, known colloquially as the White Mountains. This is where Tolkien locates the Dead Men of Dunharrow, cursed for betraying King Isildur at the end of the Second Age and doomed to live on as wraiths beneath the mountains, until Aragorn comes to redeem them. In a rare admission, Tolkien acknowledged that these White Mountains were, indeed, based on The Malvern Hills.
George Sayer saved J.R.R Tolkien from burning The Lord of the Rings manuscript. In 1952, J.R.R Tolkien who was having difficulty getting his masterpiece Lord of the Rings published, decided to burn the draft but George Sayer prevented him and praised his work. The Fellowship of the Ring was finally published on 29 July 1954.
Thank you to Dr. Bradley Wells, an expert at Malvern College for his insightful academic knowledge about J.R.R Tolkien.
The J.R.R Tolkien Walking Story
The Tolkien Walking Story hopes to entice others to follow in the footsteps of J.R.R Tolkien’s inspirational journeys across the Malvern Hills, including British Camp (Herefordshire Beacon) – an ancient iron-age hill fort with its myths and legends about infamous battles, with views across to where you can imagine ‘Hobbits’ climbing the undulating peaks; along with an opening of a cave; walk along Shire Ditch – a location of struggle between historic landowners and through an old quarry, which to the introspective eye would have influenced where dwarves used to mine for gold and gems, and of course you can walk through the forests on the lower slopes where the Elves and ‘Ents’ may have once lived in Tolkien’s literary creations. There are also views across to the tower of Little Malvern Priory and The Obelisk, which is located close to the twin towers of Eastnor Castle. Along with the tale of Jack o’ Kent, a wizard with his connections to Sugar Loaf Mountain betting the devil it was higher than the Malvern Hills.
There are plenty of landscapes across the Malvern Hills which may have inspired J.R.R Tolkien, so don’t be surprised if you feel compelled to pause during your own walk to jot something down and write your own imaginative story or literary masterpiece.
The new ‘Chronicles of Malvernia’ J.R.R Tolkien Story will be available to download in our Walk Finder and Walking App very soon…
Illustration of J.R.R Tolkien by Andy Stevenson
Route (click here to download)
The Tolkien Society
If you’re a big fan of J.R.R Tolkien, why not join The Tolkien Society – an educational charity and literary society devoted to the study and promotion of the life and works of the author and academic J.R.R. Tolkien. As a membership organisation, the Tolkien Society publishes a bulletin and a journal at regular intervals, and organises various events throughout the year. Find out more here.
New ‘Hobbit’ Door on Belle Vue Island in Great Malvern
In celebration of our connections with J.R.R. Tolkien, local artist Phil Ironside has been hard at work come rain or shine painting a new “Hobbit” Door on Belle Vue Island.
Come and take a ‘selfie’ and share via social media using our hashtags #MalvernShireDoor and #MalvernHobbitDoor.
Watch the time-lapse video with Phil Ironside painting the door and find out more here.
C.S Lewis – ‘The (next) Chronicles of Malvernia’ Walking Story
The next story in ‘The Chronicles of Malvernia’ series will feature a Walking Story about C.S Lewis. The story will tell the tale about how the gas lamps of Great Malvern inspired C.S Lewis to write his children’s tales of ‘Narnia’, as well as how the education C.S Lewis received at Malvern College inspired his literary talents. Wrapped in the warm embrace of the glorious Malvern Hills, Malvern College is regarded as one of England’s great independent schools. The C.S Lewis Walking Story is coming soon…
Where To Stay Around The Malvern Hills
You can use our activity and attraction finder to browse all of our attraction listings & filter the results to help plan your perfect visit to The Malverns.
So, whether you’re looking to enjoy the natural beauty of our gardens and vineyards or explore our fascinating museums and heritage, you’re sure to find something to suit!