The Head of Malvern College Keith Metcalfe describes its outdoor pursuits programme for senior and prep schools, making full use of a spectacular setting in the Malvern Hills

Following every Olympics, schools up and down the land scrutinise medal tables to see if any of their alumni featured on the podium. It’s a huge achievement and an accomplishment to boast about, but are there pupils missing out if they find their fitness, ambition and competitive spirit veer away from the more traditional sports?

If a school’s sporting pedigree were to be judged by the shelves of trophies and silverware, Malvern College would inevitably rank highly. With an illustrious history of sporting achievements that has produced a string of well-known names in the fields of rugby, cricket and racquet sports, our sporting reputation is one we wear proudly. We offer a comprehensive sports programme designed to foster a passion at all levels, from enjoying a gentle knock-around through to regional and national competition. But the College’s unique position, nestled in the Malvern Hills, opens up a realm of opportunities far beyond the confines of field or court.

Malvern College – delivering outdoor adventure
Malvern College has a unique location, nestling in the Malvern Hills, making sporting opportunities extend way beyond field and court. Photo top: Norman Mays

We – and our sister Prep The Downs Malvern – are situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the surrounding hills provide the perfect playground and outdoor classroom. With a pupil age range of 3-13 in prep and 13-18 in senior, the appeal of escaping the classroom to pedal, climb or explore the local countryside engages nearly all pupils at some point in their time here. This bridges the gap between pupils who enjoy organised sports and those who seek adventure. Encouraging teamwork, leadership, problem solving and independence, we offer a unique outdoor pursuits programme that arguably goes far beyond the acquisition of sporting skills.

“This year the challenge has been set to cycle, canoe and sail from Malvern College Switzerland back to Malvern College UK completely self-supported”

Challenges grow as our pupils grow. The willingness to take part in outdoor activities and embrace new things starts early when pupils are at our sister prep school, The Downs Malvern. Situated up and over the other side of the famous hills, The Downs Malvern shares an equally breathtaking backdrop. In Reception, leaping into puddles is as much a part of the curriculum as recognising phonics.

Malvern College – delivering outdoor adventure
The Downs Malvern also offers a full outdoor programme, enabling its pupils to bike and run in the hills

As part of their Saturday Hobbies programme, prep pupils make use of the rural 55-acre site. Activities include Outdoor Explorer, cross-country running and mountain biking. These sessions have been a runaway hit at The Downs as they are taught by external coach, Gareth Richards. Gareth has built a wealth of experience in mountain biking; not only is he an accomplished mountain biker and highly experienced coach himself, but he is also the father of current Commonwealth Games gold medallist rider, Evie Richards. When she isn’t competing or racing at various world championships, Evie has joined pupils for a masterclass ride-out.

“The Downs Malvern shares an equally breath-taking backdrop. Leaping into puddles in Reception is as much a part of the curriculum as phonics”   

The opportunities get even more exciting and enriching at senior level. Led by Jay Watts, the College’s Head of Outdoor Pursuits, our programme offers downhill mountain biking, hiking and water sports. Beyond the pleasures they bring, Malvern pupils have the opportunity to take part in a range of unique events. ‘Hunted’, for example, sees pupils take to the Malvern Hills and try and evade detection by staff, search teams and sniffer dogs to be in with a chance of winning money for their chosen charity. ‘Lost’, on the other hand, drops young people 50 km away from school, requiring them to find their way back using just their own skills and initiative.

A O P At Malvern Max Nutbeem
Pupils at Malvern College relish the challenges outdoor pursuits bring. Photo: Max Nutbeem

In the summer of 2021, a group of ten students took part in a Malvern to Paris challenge. Over 21 days the group travelled 850 kilometres via bike, kayak, boat and paddle board, raising thousands for charity in the process. When they spoke about their expedition afterwards, there was very little reference to specific cycling skills or paddle boarding expertise, but a lot about their personal development, how they had grown as individuals and as a team, and in their wider skillsets.

This year, the challenge has been set to cycle, canoe and sail from Malvern College Switzerland back to Malvern College UK completely self- supported. The demand for places to take part in the challenge has been immense.

Taking to the hills as part of outdoor pursuits challenges builds skills such as teamwork and resilience – and it’s great fun

A Malvern education intends to develop in each of our pupil’s qualities, such as resilience, collaboration and risk-taking. Outdoor sports, alongside traditional sports, offer another way to develop these attributes, as well as a range of valuable transferable skills in a tangible way – a way that shows them just how much they can achieve when they set their mind to it. A full programme of outdoor pursuits should never be seen as a substitute for traditional sports. Like all the best sporting rivalries, when they can both compete, everyone’s a winner.

Malvern College – delivering outdoor adventure
Malvern College’s historic main building – the school was founded in 1865 while its sister prep The Downs Malvern opened in 1900

At a glance


Founded: 1900
Head: Andy Nuttall
Gender: Co-ed
Number of pupils: 170
Day or boarding: Boarding (from 7+) and Day Ages: 3-13
Points of entry: 3+, 4+, 11+ and in-year admissions (subject to availability) Admissions: Non-selective. Interview and reports (where applicable). EAL requirements may apply in senior years. Early registration is advised. Religious affiliation: Church of England, all denominations welcome Fees: 2022-23 Boarding (per term) £5,460- £8,435. Day (per term) £2,650-£6,370

Address: The Downs Malvern, Brockhill Road, Malvern, WR13 6EY


Founded: 1865
Head: Keith Metcalfe
Gender: Co-ed
Number of pupils: 655
Day or boarding: Boarding and Day Ages: 13-18
Points of entry: 13+, 14+, Lower Sixth and occasional in-year admissions Admissions: Selective. Standardised testing, reports and interview.
Early registration is advised. Religious affiliation: Church of England, all denominations welcome and many festivals celebrated.
Fees: 2022-23 Boarding (per term) £13,900- £14,675. Day (per term) £9,325-£9,660

Address: Malvern College, College Road, Malvern, WR14 3DF

Further reading; Girls on top – why ‘boys’ sports’ are so cool for girls