Clent History Now

Here we are – August 4th 2020 – the day is cool and cloudy. It’s a quiet day on Adams Hill. The car park has spaces for any would be walkers who want to venture up this way. I’m not certain about the local pubs. They have their outdoor seating areas, tables and chairs set at prescribed social distances, some have gazebos to keep patrons dry if rain suddenly falls, and today maybe it will. So drop in, there’s space. Treat yourself to food and soft drinks and between Monday and Wednesday the generous government sponsored voucher will flash up and knock a heap of money from your bill. We are helping out the economy. What times we’re living in .  But, a big BUT, we have to watch how much we pile on our plates. It’s not good for us, we have been clearly told by our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. He is a man who knows.

We’ve been told to get ourselves out, not to hang about with drinks in hand, in big unruly groups. (Really ?) Exercise is what we need so pull on those boots. Head for the hills. Jump on that bike . This is the new way. The new tomorrow.

In these strange times in which the world as we know it is controlled by an unseen terrible virus – Covid 19- who would argue that heading to the hills wasn’t a great idea after so many days of us having to stay inside, not meeting family and friends, working from home or of not being able to work at all, perhaps seeing our jobs disappear and our earning power disappear too? In all that 2020 is the year when we have had day after day of hot sunny weather and clear blue skies. No wonder that a trip to the Clent Hills has been such an attractive draw for so many. A bit of fresh air, wonderful views up at The Stones. Forget your phone. Stop checking the news. Relax. Enjoy being away from crowds.

Have a picnic on the grass (remember to take all your litter home.) It was noted  by an observer in 1926 that on the hills ‘serious litter was a problem in spring’ . We don’t want history repeating itself like that, do we? We all want to keep the hills and village clean so we can come and enjoy them again. It’s easier carrying empty packets and bottles home when they’re empty and we all want to be ‘green not mean’. In 2020 we’re pretty clued up about these things not like people in ‘the old days’.

Earlier today I came across the above information on the 1926 litter crisis, in an interesting historic document, printed as long ago as 2003. It was a beautifully illustrated leaflet produced by the National Trust who have now had direct management of the hills since 1995 after initially being given care of the hills in 1959.( The period 1974-1995  saw the hills designated as a Country Park and managed by local council.) The National Trust leaflet gives brief insights into the history of the Clent Hills and suggesting walking routes around Clent Hill and Walton Hill- (credit  is given to Clent History Society for some of the archive photos included)

The cover headlines ‘Open Hills!- Lovely Views, fresh air, peace and quiet.’ ………. Turn to the first page and there we see a photo of Adams Hill on a summer’s day sometime before the First World War- 1914-1918. The area with the main path which leads up from The Hill Tavern area is almost completely covered, not with  brambles and gorse and trees as in we know it in 2020 but the open heath is covered with crowds holiday makers. Family groups and friends sitting closely together, enjoying picnics and drinks whilst other visitors are huffing their way up the steep slopes, heading for the big views. Donkeys are plodding round the Donkey Ring giving rides to excited tourists, who had probably walked from towns miles away and saved money to enjoy this special treat.

Reading a little further we are reminded that the hills had been ‘borrowed’ as a dramatic backdrop for Hagley Park, and landscaped with carefully planted clumps of pines, the famous ‘Four Stones’ set up at the summit to add a memorable and dramatic touch. The park and hills were a popular tourist attraction (as now) but ‘midnight revelling in the park’ got to be too much for Lord Lyttelton and he decided in 1826 to lock his gates to the public. Oh, those thoughtless revellers spoiling everyone else’s fun!

Although peaceful and quiet during weekdays with only grazing animals on the slopes the hills still remained popular at weekends and holidays. It is not recorded that a Prime Minister told them to do it but many intrepid citizens got onto their bikes at home and pedalled all the way to Clent. Many even made it up and over the hills. (A favourite cafe was at the top of Walton Hill which is a very steep hill even to walk.) How many gears did those bikes have? Were the cyclists wearing lycra shorts? How many cakes, scones did they eat? That we don’t know but the cafe was busy.

We are fortunate to have these hills for our enjoyment and lucky to have the National Trust volunteers looking after them for us as they do in normal times. The Trust are often looking out for fit and enthusiastic volunteers to help them keep the hills a special place for us all. (With gyms and sports halls not open that could be another fitness idea.)



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