The Oasis snack bar providing roadside comfort breaks on the Evesham to Cheltenham road.

Wych-Avon – the name contains two elements; Avon after the river that flows through it and Wych, from the Saxon kingdom of Hwicca, took its current title in 1973. It covers an area of 252 square miles, making it the 57th largest in the whole Kingdom. In 1972 it was voted best council to work for by ‘the Sunday Times’.

Populated by burly farmers and happy council officers, Wychavon stretches almost the length of the county. Bordered by Wyre Forest to the north and Malvern Hills to the west and including the minor towns of Evesham, Pershore, Droitwich and Broadway as well as the prettily nondescript villages of Wyre Piddle, the Lenches, Combertons and not forgetting Cropthorne, the home of cider.

The surrounding area is generally flattish in appearance with the exception being Breedon Hill. There is also a popular Motorway service station at Strensham.

*Beyond them smoke rises from stubborn charcoaled fields, their modern day gleaners silhouetted in the haze of an illicit summer’s morn, more likely to hail from Krakow or Warszawa than Stoulton, Bredon or Hanley Swan.



The Veil of Eveshomme

The Vale of Evesham is part Avon flood plain and part large swathe of land comprising orchards and market gardens tended by hard working seasonal types hailing from the edge of the E.U, eager to send money home so their loved ones can eat borscht and have life changing operations.

Built around an 8th century abbey, the market town of Evesham (pop 22,300 or thereabouts) was named after Eof, swineherd to Egwin, the third Bishop of Worcester and Ham or Haum, meaning land either side of a river liable to flooding. Today it is itself fairly nondescript although the centre is lively enough with a charming cinema and vibrant Arts Centre striving to keep ennui at bay.

There are pleasantly diverting riverside walks to be enjoyed along the Avon, perhaps taking a picic, whilst across town two richly diverse supermarkets flirt lazily for the attentions of an ageing population. At nearby South Littleton lies the jewel in the Wychavon crown, HMP Long Lartin, a high wall and gated residential complex which some of the countries most notorious offenders call home.

Whilst the equable climate makes visiting a pleasant experience all year round, it is worth remembering that it can get quite busy during the Asparagus Festival held in the town each spring.

For those of you wishing to contact the town direct WR11 is the postcode and the dialling code is 01386.



Country & West Mercian

The new English country music scene which line danced its way out of the three counties in the late nineties had it's birth in the unfashionable Worcestershire area of Wychavon. Light years from Nashville and not that much nearer Birmingham AL, Worcester MA or any other great pop metropoli, it may nonetheless in some small way have paved the way for future crossover acts between country music and pop, such as Taylor Swift and the Mavericks.

Dubed Country & West Mercian by the National music press it was seen as a way of combining the Cotswold Country sound, with it's rhinestone jerkins, over reliance on 5 string banjo, and Midlands pop, with it's walking basslines and perky girly choruses. Both styles were aspirational with the cliched hard livin', fruit picking' (as in Little John's 'Tales from the Littletons') combining well with the sweeter horn 'n' corn driven 'sound of the town' emerging from across the tracks on the southside of the Avon delta.

Long deleted, HMP Long Lartin Prison Blues was the LP where it all kicked off. Incendiary material recorded in the prison of the same name and featuring local legends Honey Bourne and the Born Again Sinners - the later made up of members of defunct Kidderminster band The Reluctant Sinners. To quote a review in Cunt'ry Lite the LP contains 12 examples of the finest local country pickin' played by a band riding tall in the saddle and with the bit between their not inconsiderable teeth'. Highlights for many were the pop tinged 'Jump Start', Xmas single 'Like a Virgin, Mary' and the country quickstep 'You Make Readin' Easy with this Easy to Read Manual', the later a duet between Honey and Dee Dee, singer with local popsters Three D Linquents. In 1997 the album accidentally made the top 100 in the British Reggae Charts, spending two weeks at number 87 before dropping out.

It was Dee Dee's brother Dee who brought the curtain down on this brief movement with his notorious foul mouthed tirade on Midlands Goes Pop, appearing drunk and refusing to answer any of the questions presented to him by question presenter Joel Gordon. That his dog had just died garnered little sympathy amongst a local fan base for whom the loss of a sheep dog was just one of those things.



Pershore (pop 7,304)

OS Grid Reference 50945455
- London 104.5 miles

For the person caught awkwardly on the hops between academia and the lure of the soil, Pershore Horticultural College hovers tantalisingly on the edge of town.



The Hanbury Orbs

The picturesque village of Hanbury, a tape of whose church bells double up for those of Ambridge's St Stephens. The popular R4 programme is based upon the nearby village of Inkberrow.

In 2003 BBC cameraman Tony Hines was filming near the village of Hanbury, four miles east of Droitwich Spa in north west Wychavon when he realized he had captured what appeared to be two large orange orbs. This created the legend of the Hanbury Orbs – although it turned out there had been one reported sighting prior to this one, circa 1975. There had been a further (unreported) sighting over Berrow Hill (approx 1 mile from Hanbury) in the mid 1980’s, ‘a large glowing orange ball reminiscent of a hot air balloon, only at night’. The Kidderminster Shuttle reported a sighting of up to 15 objects in 2003 (eight miles as the crow flies) and in 2008 a letter on the subject appeared in the Hanbury Parish Magazine.

These orbs should not be confused with those belonging to the Vernon Arms' legendary 70's barmaid 'Busty' Jo Bamford, tireless puller of pints and them that drinks 'em.



Pear Tree Fever?

Possibly one of the more stupid ideas to emerge in recent times was that of a giant statue of a pear tree to be sited in a field adjacent to Motorway 5 in the south of the county. Intended to provide an iconic welcome to the county for travellers from Gloucestershire and the South West and thus intended as a reminder that they have arrived in one of the most exciting outposts of this sceptered isle it instead provided the impetus for pub games along the lines of 'Worcestershire needs' - as in 'Worcester needs an international airport/second river/viable park & ride etc'.

Taking the lead of the Angel of the North, Worcestershire's sculptural pear tree was intended to be unveiled in the Olympic year of 2012. Obviously that date has now passed and it is to be hoped that any idea of a 21 metre high being toppled in high winds and landing on the North bound carriageway of Motorway 5 has now been consigned to history.

Incidentally the Shire's connection with the black pear dates back to 1575 when the first Queen Lizzie, having planted one during a state visit to the county, commented upon how nice they were. The rest is local history.