where the writers are
Thoughts of England Blog entry

Malvern Hills. Not Malvern in the US, and not the Malvern in South Africa. I am talking of the Malvern hills situated in the heart of England, straddling Worcestershire and Herefordshire. These hills were for probably a thousand years or more in view of my ancestors. They are only six miles long, and quite low in comparison to the Welsh mountain range which one can see from Worcester Beacon. On the top is a cafe - ideal for someone like me who prefers any walk or swim to end in a reward of sorts. I used to walk those hills at least twice a week, and I would go with my family dog, a long haired Jack Russell, Jenny, who loved to roam the hills. Though often times, I would have to carry her back. These hills where my grandfather quarried and once looked after donkeys - was from time immemorial a locus of history. The Ancient Britons had a fort there - British Camp. Inside the hills, King Arthur's knights were said to be ready on their horses to rise again. On top of those hills walked nearly every famous person in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. On those hills begins one of the most beautiful allegorical poems in the English language, Piers Plowman, written by William Langland who began his poem dreaming on the hills. Daniel Defoe wrote about the gold mine - it was "fool's gold". Charles Darwin went there for the water cure. An infamous murder occurred there in the nineteenth century. In the town, George Bernard Shaw, who liked to climb trees for some reason, and loved eating bananas (something I adore) came - and in the Winter Gardens the world premiere of some of his plays were performed  - as were Noel Coward's. Sir Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations is devoted to people in that locality - and in the movie by Ken Russell one sees the actor playing Elgar walking the hills. Always when I think of England, I think of Malvern - a Spa Town with very old buildings in abundance, a middle class town close to industrial Birmingham and the "Black Country" named for the coal miners, where my other ancestors stemmed from. My grandmother worked as a lady's servant in the country houses in sight of the Malvern Hills - but she herself was born in dire poverty in a cottage that was uninhabitable - where the fire was always burning to melt iron for nails - nails she made from the age of nine. I was not born in Malvern, but I grew up there and lived there periodically for many years. I used to catch the train to go to Hereford - it was a single track - and went through a tunnel - one which undoubtedly my ancestors had a hand in building. I loved the provincialism of it - waiting at Malvern Link station - knowing the station guard by name - there being several Malverns altogether. There was Great Malvern - "the town", then West Malvern, where my grandparents are buried as well as the author of the first thesaurus, Mark Roget, Malvern Wells (where the famous water comes from which you had in your drinks - and the Queen Mother drank), Little Malvern which has a lovely church, and Malvern Link. Also in the neighbourhood is Madresfield Court, a wonderful stately home where Evelyn Waugh used spend a great deal of time. I once remember a party in one of those houses - a hippy photographer's house - they kept lifestock in the bottom part of the house. Malvern was full of people interested in alternative life styles and culture.  You will find on the other side of the hills, on the Colwall side, a house designed by one of the greatest early twentieth century architects - the style which was to be used as a template for thousands of houses into the 1940s. The writer, Barbara Cartland lived in the midst of the hills. I saw her Rolls Royce with tinted windows drive past once. Robert Frost lived in nearby Dymock, as did one of my all time favourite poets, Edward Thomas. Those beautiful hills, where I took all the people I loved to share with me something which I believed was "My England", encapsulate so many of my memories, and have inspired me many a time to write nature poems, like Edward Thomas. You cannot have lived there without thinking of the green brown bald hills, the view of the plains, the clouds that match everything Constable and Turner painted. I have written before of sleeping on top of those hills, to awake and see a kestrel soar above. My goodness - even though I am not religious I could almost be persuaded that it was the work of a creator - but alas not, those hills were thrown up by the machinations of an earth in its infancy, full of geological turmoil - made of some of the oldest rock in Britain. Aye - I give you my thoughts of England. Malvern Hills.