The town of Evesham is most conveniently situated as a centre from which to visit the broad vale and the surrounding hills. Within a comparatively short distance a great variety may be noticed in the general aspect of the country, and this is due not only to the contour of the surface and the nature of the soil, but also to the manner of cultivation; and, as has already been indicated, to the material employed in the buildings. The vale itself is sheltered, and the soil productive and capable of high cultivation, consequently the greater part has been utilised for agriculture. Lately the market-gardening industry, originating possibly in monastic times, has increased enormously, and the appearance of the country for many miles round Evesham has been transformed. In springtime the effect of the plum-blossom is surprisingly beautiful; and in the autumn a luxuriant effect is given by the heavily-laden trees bending beneath their weight of yellow or purple fruit. But against these transient effects we must place the tiresome regularity of the fruit-trees, their uniform size and height, and the absence or monotony of colour during a great part of the year, when the ground, the bushes, and the trees are bare.
The prosperity brought to the inhabitants of the vale by this staple industry is “writ large” in the towns and villages wherever it is practised, and, from the picturesque point of view, the gain is more than doubtful.
But though fruit-growing has spread in every direction, we can with ease escape beyond its limits, and even within them we may still find cornfields, rich pasture and woodlands, thriving farms, and villages still unspoiled by the modern “jerry-builder.”
The hill country does not come within the limits of this volume, but it may be easily reached—the nearest points being Broadway, and the villages of Ashton-under-hill and Elmley Castle, both lying under Bredon. The value of the hills as a shelter and background to the vale has been touched on in former pages; and the debt which the valley owes to the stone which they provide, and the architectural style which grew up amongst them, cannot be overestimated.
[Illustration: St. Egwin’s Church Honeybourne]
Close to the town many of the field-paths have been bereft of their charm, and almost lost in the intricate maze of currant bushes and plum trees; but the river meadows are still untouched, and without going far afield we may find villages yet retaining much of their old-world character, and offering much that is picturesque and interesting.
Hampton, which has been described in the last section may be approached as easily by road as by river; from the top of the village Clark’s Hill may be gained, and from here the ferry may be crossed and the town re-entered by Boat Lane.