As 2006 drew to a close the Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells were engaged in a programme of activities that continued to enhance the public awareness and involvement in the springs and wells of the
The St Werstan Award for the improvement of the local water heritage had been announced in 2005 and this was destined to become an event that took place about once every year, depending on circumstances. The first plaque was awarded to Penny Cottage and Osborne's Fountain in January 2006 by a representative from the sponsors, Malvern Natural Mineral Water. In the picture the St Werstan Award is presented by Coca-Cola to the Malvern Community Hospital for their conservation of the Hospital Fountain.
The Owls Hole Pump and Engine had been secured and restored. A garden party was held to demonstrate the vintage machinery and it became a regular annual event to have it running at the Worcestershire
Most importantly however was the programme of improvement for the springs and wells resulting from the Heritage Lottery Funding. A dozen or more sites were destined for improvements and the implementation of the plans was administered from the local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Office on behalf of Worcestershire County Council.
The programme was not without its minor hiccups however. A restored water cascade outside St Ann's Well was named the Old Moses Spout after the local donkey that supposedly carried Princess Victoria up to the well in the early 19th century. She in fact rode her own donkey to the well. Her donkey was brought up from
Other events that were important was the continued organisation of the annual well decorating. During this septennial it was to evolve into the largest annual event of its kind in the
Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells also decided to formally scrap the Well Wardens scheme because of the possible repercussions regarding public liability if something went wrong. This could involve anything from water contamination to personal accident or unanticipated damage to water courses etc. The Wardens were amalgamated into the Friends and the announcement made in Friends Newsletter 13 finally brought this difficult situation to a close. The former Wardens were able to maintain their interest as Friends but any site work had to be on a orchestrated on a formal basis.
Following extensive original research and reinterpretation of early texts 'The Illumination of St Werstan the Martyr' was published by Cora Weaver and Bruce Osborne. This set out the founding of Malvern in the time of Edward the Confessor and how the first hermit had been assassinated in his cell near the present day
With the growing fame of Malvern Springs and Wells, the media found the theme of sufficient interest to take it national, with programmes like Countryfile visiting the hills with their film crews and local experts participating. Nick Crane, the high profile presenter of the Around Britain series worked with Cora and Bruce on a documnentary about Holy Well in which Cora appeared and which has subsequently been extensively screened.
The early months of 2007 saw a change in the presentation of the Malvern Water brand of bottled water. Although subtle, at the time it passed almost unnoticed but in retrospect it was a signal of difficulties that were to have major repercussions in the future. The Schweppes bottling works at Colwall continued to employ about two dozen local people and the brand, which had Royal Appointment, not only was favoured by the Queen but also considerably enhanced the imagery and public awareness of the
One particularly important site to enjoy the benefits of the Heritage Lottery Funding was Clock Tower. Extensive restoration of the structure was overdue and welcomed. The water spout was reinstated and Tolkein-style gates put on the spout chamber. These created some controversy regarding their suitability for an industrial building. With hindsight they continue to perform their function and add a little decorative relief to what might otherwise be an austere building. It is always difficult to introduce ideas that are slightly 'outside the box'. An example is the sponsored labyrinth scheme for
Meanwhile background research into the provenance of the springs and wells continued. Since 2000, Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells had been maintaining a database of research findings and new springs and wells sites discovered in the hills. This was eventually put on limited access on the internet and was only accessed where specific knowledge was required of sites and their history. What became apparent was that the number of known sites had steadily increased since 1992 and that a vast store of knowledge was largely publicly unrecognised, having not been formally published. A draft plan was formulated therefore to bring about the publication of a new definite work on Malvern Waters under the title Celebrated Springs of the
Summer 2008 saw the opening of the first new formal spa facility in Malvern for the first time in a century. The MalvernSpa opened its doors to the public providing a range of treatments and therapies aided by the provision of Malvern waters pumped from a borehole specifically drilled for the purpose. The spa had been built by local entrepreneur John Williams, but soon changed hands as the development of the business collided with the economic recession. Located in
Another project that was initiated by Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells was the George Bernard Shaw Mulberry Tree reinstatement. Shaw planted a mulberry tree in Priory Park Malvern in 1936, to commemorate his 80th birthday. In the year 2000 the tree, by then mature, came down in a storm and it was thought all was lost. Not so, it was discovered that a cutting from the original had been sent and planted in 1959 in Malvern,
In the winter of 2009/10 there was an important event at the Holy Well. Following restoration of the building by the Humm family, they started bottling Holy Well water again. This was at a time when the market for premium brands was in decline. However the provenance of the local water made it an exciting project that saw bottled water again at the site where Schweppes had originally bottled 160 years before. In addition a visitor centre was opened at the Holy Well that was invaluable in not only maintaining the site in good order following earlier vandalism, but also aroused interest in Malvern Waters generally.
Also February of 2010 saw the burning of the Tudor Hotel, Malvern's historic water cure establishment. The structure had been in a dire condition for many years and many feared that it would be lost. Efforts to encourage Danubius, the largest spa operator in Europe, to come to Malvern to establish a spa resort in the building and surrounds had been thwarted by the recession. Fortunately a local entrepreneur, David Habershon, stepped in and the buildings are now undergoing restoration for residential use.
The year 2010 however will go down in history for another event that totally changed the Malvern Waters landscape. Coca-Cola announced that they intended to close their Schweppes Malvern Water bottling works at Colwall. This was after 160 years of bottling Malvern Waters under the Schweppes brand name. Various factions took different stances with regard to the closure. Some chose to attack Coca-Cola for their decision and to pursue a course of confrontation with a view to maintaining water bottling on site. After careful deliberation Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells decided that the most productive route forward was to interact with the bad news in a way that enabled Friends to salvage what could be of continued lasting value to Malvern and the
Inevitably the issues leading to the closure are debated extensively and there is little doubt that the viability of Colwall in recent years was based on the willingness of Coca-Cola to continue to invest resources into a business with an Achilles heel that could not be easily resolved, ie the water supply. Events outlined below, that took place in 2004 and 2005, can arguably be seen as leading to the closure 5 years later.
In the latter months of 2004, Coca-Cola applied for permission to use Walms Well to supplement their source water supply from the Primeswell. The Vice Chairman of the Malvern Spa Association, Rose Garrard responded by orchestrating a vociferous publicity campaign that halted the application by Coca-Cola in its tracks based on her much quoted statement
"The level of water talked about is massive. We worry whether this amount of exploitation will bleed it dry."
Local and then national media quickly took up the cause and a public debate worldwide ensued. It is worth mentioning at this point that the quantity of water talked about was minuscule compared with the total amount falling on the hills, and the aquifer would be unaffected. The spiralling media attention was halted when Dr Bruce Osborne, local author on the Malvern Springs and Wells and former Chairman of the British Natural Mineral Water Association, rushed to
Ms Carly Tinkler, the Malvern Spa Association Chairman in their Newsletter 15 of Winter 2005 recorded that following the headlines the MSA had swung into action: "We were pleased to hear that in January the application was withdrawn" said Tinkler. Other principal officers of the Malvern Spa Association at this time included R Garrard, J Bibby, R Roberts, J Black and J Harcup.
The Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells followed this up with Newsletter 5 of January 2005 with a summary of what had transpired, commenting as follows.
"Let us hope that this is not the beginning of the end for the last remaining bottler of Malvern Water, a tradition that can be traced back to the early 17th century."
The dying controversy was also covered in the following Friends Newsletters 6 of February 2005 and 7 of March 2005, culminating in the following observation.
"Let us hope that someone somewhere in the Corporate Affairs dept. of Coca-Cola Enterprises does not consider the whole problem too much trouble and puts a red line through Malvern Water, thus ending a long tradition of bottling in the
We can now see the prediction came true. It is apparent that Coca-Cola had water supply issues, deduced from the aborted Walms Well application. This was endorsed when they dropped the mineral water designation in 2007 (see above) and suggests that the water supply problems were a major factor. In the end the business was not viable and efforts to make it so had been detrimental to Coca-Cola's international reputation. The outcome was almost inevitable.
Following closure the Colwall bottling plant site was put up for sale in 2011 and ultimately purchased by a property development company. The Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, acted quickly after the closing to ensure that the historic Tank House became a grade 2 listed building, thus at least preserving the heritage building as a reminder of the demise of a Great British water after 160 years.
Another controversial issue that attracted great media attention between 2010 and 2012 was the
Published by Phillimore, the book is hard back with dust cover, large quarto size with lavish illustrations and extended text. Celebrated Springs contains about 200 illustrations and well researched text over a similar number of pages, together with seven area maps to guide the explorer to the locations around the Malvern Hills.
This in turn gave rise to the creation of the Malvern Springs and Wells Discovery Trail by the Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells. Using latest technology such as QR codes the exploration of the famous springs and wells sites became formalised in two trails: one was around the hills and one around the town.
As the third seven years draws to a close it is possible to summarise progress since the inception of Malvern Springs and Wells as a theme in 1992.
1. Well Decorating was initiated in the 1990s and is now believed to be the largest such event in the country.
2. There has been continuing national TV and other media coverage of the theme with Cora and Bruce appearing on programs such as Countryfile, etc. Also the local papers and radio frequently run editorials on the theme.
3. There are at least two specialist interest groups operating, including Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells, which is run by Cora Weaver and Bruce Osborne.
4. Cora's and Bruce's publications and supporting lectures, tours and presentations are well known and these in turn have led to the springs and wells of Malvern becoming a major tourist interest.
5. There has been a Heritage Lottery Grant of over a quarter million pounds to restore various springs and wells sites, now fully implemented.
6. The theme is supported by various public bodies including the Malvern Hills Conservators, Worcestershire County Council, Malvern Hills District Council,
7. There are numerous spin off projects such as the George Bernard Shaw Mulberry Tree reinstatement in
8. The St Werstan Awards, sponsored by Coca-Cola, now promote the restoration and conservation of the sites and also commemorate this founding father of Malvern Priory as patron saint of Malvern springs and wells.