When May Hill comes in to sight we know we are nearly home. It is a distinctive landmark that tells us our journey is soon to come to an end. We have driven past it many times, seen it shrouded in mist, enveloped by cloud, dusted with snow and emblazoned in sunshine yet we have only been up there a handful of times...
It is a wild and open landscape at the summit, crowned by a distinctive round of trees which can be seen for mile upon mile. Once you are on top of May Hill its the 360 degree views that astounds. You can see The Cotswolds, The Malverns, The Black Mountains, The Brecon Beacons, The Forest of Dean and the Severn Valley. It is truly gob-smacking. For such a small hill, it stands at just 296m, it certainly packs a punch.
The trees atop May Hill date back to ancient times and have been recorded several times throughout history. A local story says that Prince Rupert and some of his Cavaliers took shelter from the trees for a short time during the siege of Gloucestershire in 1643. A clergyman writing 60 years prior to the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 writes: "May Hill, a conspicuous round-topped hill distinguished by a plantation on the summit". A painting from 1780, around the same time as the clergyman, also shows a clump of trees present on the summit. May Hill was often used as a beacon to ships navigating the River Severn and, consequently, the trees were used for these beacons. Eventually, money was raised to plant new trees to accompany the dwindling numbers on the summit to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. It has been said that from some angles the trees look like a ploughman and his team. John Masefield describes it in his poem "The Everlasting Mercy".
May Hill holds a spell over locals and visitors alike. There is a mysticism about it which even the most cynical can feel. There are tales of witches gathering up on the hill and a clump of trees has been noted on maps going back centuries. Today on May Day there are celebrations with Morris Dancing and festivities welcoming the dawning sun. It is also said that Perry Cider can only be made within site of May Hill.
Our walk takes us from Cliffords Mesne up through beautiful woodland up on to the open expanse of May Hill, then back down. A short walk, easily completed after lunch on a Sunday and accessible to a wide range of abilities. There are many paths you can take up and down May Hill, you can extend your walk, or make it shorter. To help navigate we used the OS Digital Map App on our phone, that way we could meander around the hills and woodland.
We have been up a couple of times but this route is by far our favourite for the range of trees you see as well as the wildlife including the wild ponies, Belted Galaway cattle and Meadow Pipits.
Terrain: Woodland paths, can be muddy, grassland.
Time: 1h 10mins
Click the Map to take you to the Walk on OS Digital Maps