Regular contributor Barry McCann shares some of his favourite things to do from his visit to elegant Great Malvern in Worcestershire, the heart of England.

Great Malvern and the Malvern Hills - photo

Great Malvern and the Malvern Hills – photo

Many have tasted its famous spring water, but there are many more quirky delights to be found in the Worcestershire town of Great Malvern. Located at the foot of the Malvern Hills, the former spa town is a picturesque landscape overlooked by the statue of one of its most famous residents, the classical composer Elgar.

There are about 70 spring wells around the area that walkers can take water directly from. One of the most well known, Holy Well, was discovered by 17th physician Dr John Wall who commented on its purity by declaring â€œThe Malvern water is famous for containing just nothing at all…!”  The spring was housed in the 1840s when Schweppes started bottling the water and the building has recently been restored with automatic lighting. It remains open day and night.

Holy Well House Great  Malvern

Holy Well House  – Great Malvern

Malvern Water is one of the refreshing delights to be enjoyed in Lady Foley’s Tearoom, located in the town’s Victorian train station. Kept in period décor, this traditional railway buffet is the legacy of  Lady Emily Foley, the widow of Squire Foley. She was instrumental in Malvern’s development as a spa town following her husband’s death in 1846. Owning a great deal of land in the area, she insisted any plots bought for housing must be at least one acre per house and surrounded by trees. As rail links were also extended, Lady Foley had the cuttings dug deep so trains would be hidden from view. The Foley family also built a private station at their Stoke Edith estate where trains stopped on request.

Lady Foley's Tearooms Great Malvern

Lady Foley’s Tearooms

In addition to the tearoom, a stronger tipple can be enjoyed in the Georgian Foley Arms Hotel, recently brought back to life by Wetherspoons. Upon leaving this watering hole, you could be forgiven for thinking you had one too many when chancing upon The Theatre of Small Convenience. Listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s smallest commercial theatre, the 12 seat venue in located in a former Victorian public toilet measuring 4.9 metres long and 3 metres wide. It was acquired by local puppeteer Dennis Neale in 1997 who transformed the interior into an  Italian commedia dell’arte auditorium complete with wall paintings.  Not only does he stage puppet shows, but it has also been used for recitals, storytelling and even opera!

Inside the Theatre of Small Convenience

Inside the Theatre of Small Convenience

Less intimate is the Malvern’s main theatre set in its own parkland. Its boasts two auditoriums, the smaller of which doubles as a cinema. The boards of this prestigious venue have been treaded by such legends as Charlton Heston and Donald Sutherland who, no doubt, also enjoyed the building’s spacious atrium, restaurant and bars. A stroll around the landscaped grounds can also be enjoyed during a production’s interval.

Malvern Theatres in Great Malvern

Malvern Theatres

But if more active exercise is called for, then a hike up the Malvern Hills is a must, with a spectacular view of the three counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. And don’t forget to take a bottle to refill at one of the spring wells you will inevitably pass.

Barry McCannBarry McCann , writer, editor and broadcaster, specialises in short stories, reviews, features, talks and, more recently, travel writing.  Barry is the editor of Parnassus, MENSA Art & Folklore Correspondant on BBC Radio Cumbria. Follow him on Face Book and read his blog â€˜Writing Without Tears’

If you enjoyed this article you may like to read another of Barry’s quirky posts â€˜Going Underground in Seattle’, the very quirky Padstow Obby Oss and a fascinating look at historic Preston Guild.