A wander through Glastonbury

There’s a bit of a time lag here…have not had a lot of connectivity to the Internet, but I hope you’ll enjoy the trip ramblings anyway.

Books read: 1 memoir, 1 British WF, 1 American WF, 6 short stories, 1 Australian WF.

Miles walked thus far: approximately 30

Date stamp: On the way home from Weston Super Mare. Written on the bus.

Last Wednesday, on our free day with the tour, we went to Glastonbury, to walk up to the Tor where King Arthur supposedly pulled the sword from the earth, and to the ruins of the Abbey, which King Henry the Eighth knocked down in 1539. We took a taxi (which I keep calling a cab and no one understands what I mean) on narrow lanes through the green, hedgerows of the countryside. Farmhouses, square and white with rectangular windows and steep roofs, stand right against the road, so close you could almost touch the walls if you stuck an arm out of the window. The grass in each yard is bordered with flowers—poppies, just now, red and orange and pink, sprays of foxglove and larkspur and delphiniums, pots of pansies—and the blossoms are twice or three times the size of the same flowers at home in Colorado.

The town of Glastonbury is a medieval warren of narrow lanes lined with shops and houses that open directly onto the streets. The taxi dropped us at a triangular plaza with a clock and benches, with the Abbey ruins behind and a hilly street climbing toward the Tor. New Age shops of every ilk sold their indiscriminant sacred relics—baskets of crystals and wands next to tokens painted with Native American symbols next to postcards of the Chalice Well. If one wished to be adorned as a witch or a goth or a yogi, all items of loose and printed and glittering clothing were available, batiked and sequined and gauzy. British and European hippies converged, all ages, with beards and bellies, wrinkles or smooth arms, everything in between.

Between the shops were hotels as old as the streets—one born in 15th century. The church is ancient, and the Abbey, of course, dates back to the 11th century. The Tor is very, very old. St. Patrick is said to have sheltered there before heading to Ireland. The Chalice was supposed to have been buried in the Well.

I loved the vigorous walk to the top of the Tor, and the scenery was glorious, green fields around like a painting of What England Looks Like. Houses in the distance, built along a ridge, fields just below us with a narrow road going between them. Pathways up the Tor itself, one from the main road, one looping behind the town to the top. It might have felt more sacred but there were so many people it was hard to get to the heart of it. It did have a rich silence about it, the silence of time and history and things long spent. The hill was ringed by meditators, facing outward. A boy about five peed into the grass while his mother looked on beneficently.

I sat for awhile, feeling at first like a fake, because the town was such a New Agey jumble of mingled everything, so much that none of it means anything after awhile. I felt a little awkward because CR was with me, but he didn’t mind, sitting down next to me as he does when we’re at church. Finally, I closed my eyes, and there, waiting with a low chuckle, was SPIRIT, big and golden and warm, soaking into me.

Well, okay. So maybe I have to offer an opportunity for communication.

We went back down, and stopped by the gardens of the Chalice Well, which was silent and holy in a way the Tor was not. We collected water at the fount, and I walked in the pool of healing, splashing the cold, cold water over my knee. I would have meditated again at the well itself, but there was a family group sitting there, and it seemed…strange to encroach. I might have waited my turn if CR hadn’t been there, but he was being so patient, I know that’s just an excuse.

Anyway, we wandered into town for lunch at a traditional tiny teashop, where we ate cream teas and I had a bowl of soup, this one cauliflower and Stilton. Last night, it was Cock A Leekie, which is chicken and leek, and Tuesday, it was carrot and coriander. Soup fest this time…the weather has been right for that.

After lunch, we went to the Abbey, which was deeply moving. Huge, obviously once a wealthy pool of welcome and shelter. I have long known about the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry the Eighth, but the vastness of it was not real to me until I stood in the middle of that ruin, feeling the loss of what must have been a glorious church, and abbey….Henry’s act of violence was every bit as ferocious and violent as the Taliban tearing down the monuments in Afghanistan. Wanton destruction.

That’s all for now. The computer wants to restart and I’m going to let it, and drift a little on the scenery.

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10 thoughts on “A wander through Glastonbury

  1. Peggy

    Thanks Barbara for that wonderful post. After a particularly difficult morning at work, reading this right now moves me away a bit. Your posts are so rich. I am thoroughly enjoying them. Savor every moment!
    Peggy

  2. Totally agree with Peggy. Your posts are rich and decadent, and deliciously consumed (and calorie free for the rest of us.) I thank goodness that you travel and share your joy in it with us. I would dearly love to experience some of the wonders you’ve seen but I fear that moments like your one in the ruined abbey would overwhelm me. I always need an anchor in those moments, perhaps that’s what the other tourists are.

  3. I thought about you today, Barb, as I sat in Panera Bread, enjoying my whole grain baguette and my chicken with wild rice soup. I wondered what adventures you were up to and hoped I’d hear about them soon. So happy for this post but I would love to see some pictures! Take care and come home safely.

  4. Your soup bit reminded me of sitting at a tiny cafe in the middle of the valley in Scotland where my ancestors supposedly dwelled. We were ordering and the soup of the day was something with “courgette.” My husband and I were puzzling over it and the waitress was trying hard to describe it. A lady sat with her family at the only other table in the place and yelled over, “It’s ZUCCHINI in America!” :) We laughed.

    Thanks for sharing your stories. Makes me homesick. And I’ve never even lived there.

  5. Mel

    Never got to Glastonbury but is on the list for one day. I did go to Cornwall for the other end of the Arthur stories.

    The ruined abbeys always got to me too.

    Happy hiking!

  6. Rosalie

    What wonderful, rich postings. I almost feel as if I am there and am very jealous that I am not. I, too, am looking forward to the pictures, knowing what an eye you have for capturing a moment. At the same time, I will be happy to see you back. Blue Too and Gypsy are still small, but growing every day. As you know, Spain is so far my favorite place to visit, perhaps second only to Ireland!! Enjoy.

  7. Lovely post, Barbara. If you have a chance take a look at Barbara Erskine’s new book, Time’s Legacy – a lot of Glastonbury and the well in that.

  8. Barbara Erskine has another book out? Yay!!!

  9. Thanks, Liz. I do love Erskine, so will definitely find it.

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