Icy garden, Green fields and The Red Dress

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Our first Friday walk was postponed for a couple of weeks so that we could go to an exhibition, not open yet on 7th January, in nearly Somerton. My friend Zoe was delayed arriving at my place because of a traffic diversion, and I filled in time wandering around my icy garden, where I saw:

two last roses of summer, and some new shoots,

some clover,

part of the hedge I have had cut right back, the future of which is pending discussions with neighbours yet to move in (both sides of it having been much neglected for the last three years),

a few starlings at the top of a further neighbour’s silver birch (some of the dozens which invade my garden when I have put out the day’s food),

a robin,

ivy,

mahonia,

last year’s water lily trapped under the ice of my pond,

and some heather.

Our short walk was for Zoe to see a nearby view which I have only quite recently discovered.

And from the bottom a look back at Glastonbury Tor across a field which had been very boggy, with streams of melted frost.

We then went on to the ACE Arts centre in Somerton to see The Red Dress. I cannot explain the project better than the first four paragraphs of the home page of the Project’s website.

“The Red Dress Project, conceived by British artist Kirstie Macleod, provides an artistic platform for women around the world, many of whom are marginalized and live in poverty, to tell their personal stories through embroidery.

“During 12 years, from 2009 to 2022, pieces of the Red Dress have travelled the globe being continuously embroidered onto. Constructed out of 73 pieces of burgundy silk dupion, the garment has been worked on by 259 women and 5 men, from 29 countries, with all 136 commissioned artisans paid for their work. The rest of the embroidery was added by 128 willing participants /audience at various groups/exhibitions/events.

“Embroiderers include women refugees from Palestine; victims of war in Kosovo, Rwanda, and DR Congo; impoverished women in South Africa, Mexico, and Egypt; women in Kenya, Japan, Paris, Sweden, Peru, Czech Republic, Dubai, Afghanistan, Australia, Argentina, Switzerland, Canada, Tobago, USA, Russia, Pakistan, Wales, Colombia, and the UK, as well as upmarket embroidery studios in India and Saudi Arabia.

“Many of the women are established embroiderers, but there are also many pieces created by first time embroiderers. The artisans were encouraged to tell a personal story they would like to share, expressing their own identities and adding their own cultural and traditional experience. Some chose to create using a specific style of embroidery practiced for hundreds of years in their family, village, or town.”

Kirstie Macleod and another woman were working on it while we were there. We wished we could have seen it more spread out, but that would have left insufficient room for visitors, especially given the need to keep a distance. I took an awful lots of pictures. Here are some.

The underside is very neat.

Towards the end of our visit I was beginning to be quite moved, thinking of all the women who had worked on the Dress.

At one point I turned to Zoe and remarked that you’d need a week to study it all in detail. Kirstie was in earshot, and said, ‘A year. I know this work intimately, and I’m still discovering new things.’

I might go back. It’s at Somerton until 29th January, and continues its tour around the world for another ten years.

Llanwrtyd Wells – 3

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New Year’s Day, Saturday. After a leisurely breakfast, I made my way to the home of my new friends from dinner the evening before, Pete and Marion, a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, on the edge of the countryside.

They have enviable views – and lovely animals.

Charlie and Harry are in the far field
Marion and the stable they had built shortly after moving to the area six years ago
Memories of previous horses
Charlie has come to see us, Harry arrives. Marion has a little something for him in her hand.
Marion and Pete with Rio and Abby

They also had chickens.

Coffee and chat partaken, I walked back to the Neuadd Arms, not sure whether in fact I could be bothered to go out for a walk, or whether I would spend the rest of the day in my room with knitting, reading and TV – but that would have been to waste an opportunity.

But the weather was brightening a little, rain did not seem to threaten, and I had really no excuse not to complete the eastern circuit proposed in the Town Walk leaflet I had used the previous day. I would have a choice of lengths at one point, and I took my walking pole from my car this time!

The route took me first past the station. Llanwrtyd Wells is fortunate still to have stopping trains, running on the Heart of Wales line between Swansea and Shrewsbury. “The railway crosses two impressive viaducts at Knucklas and at Cynghordy and goes through six tunnels, including one on the magnificent run up to Sugar Loaf. Over 30 stations are served by the line, some of which are request stops.” (Website.)

The next train from Platform 2 will depart in two hours’ time.

Four stopping trains a day in each direction, Monday to Saturday, two on Sunday

The old board must have been there in 1961 when Diane and I used the station.

The walk leaflet instructed, ” Carry on past the station, following the road as far as the entrance to the Abernant Lake Hotel on your right, now operated as an outward bound centre for children.” The centre was barely visible though the trees. At this point that I had to decide whether to do the additional loop to the walk. As otherwise that would have made for a very short outing indeed, I chose to go on. This involved leaving the road, and taking a path towards a railway crossing and Glan Irfon Farm. As I struggled with the gate into the field a couple happened along and asked me if I was looking for the path. I wasn’t at that point, but they helpfully pointed out the correct direction, which was not what I would have taken, so that was very useful. I was meant to head for the very middle of this picture.

I stopped, looked and listened as instructed. With only eight trains a day along the track, the risk was low.

‘Soggy’ was yesterday’s word. ‘Squelchy’ was today’s. At one point the waymarked path invited me to climb over a very rickety ladder stile, sloping away from me, and then to cross a small fast-flowing stream, probably a dry ditch usually. I was not sure that I would be able to do the latter, even with my pole, and having done the former, climbing back over would have been attempting to straddle a rickety ladder stile which would then be sloping steeply towards me. Discretion being the better part of valour, I sought another way to the farm, which fortunately proved not to be too difficult, other than much more squelch, and to involve opening a civilised gate.

Sheep were everywhere I went in this part of Wales. Cows were rarer.

Around this time I saw a couple of little egrets flying around, but was unable to capture them with my camera. No trouble doing so when it’s sheep.

I became aware that the sun was trying to break through and took this photo over my right shoulder.

I passed through and by Glan Irfon Farm. Its courtyard had some interesting accommodation units, residential I think.

These black-faced sheep seemed much more interesting, and interested, than the others, as I made my way towards another railway crossing to return to the road.

No stiles this time, but a gate to get to the line, with a catch which definitely required a GCSE equivalent in engineering.

To leave it, I reckon you needed an ‘A’ level equivalent! OK, you can – once you know – easily see that the thing blocking the horizontal slider can be slid itself…

A few feet away was this curious object. I have no idea what it is, but I have found (when I was looking for more information on the accommodation) that the railway crossing has its own web-page!

Brilliant sunshine for a minute or two.

And a beautiful tree.

But the sun didn’t last, as I approached the road and looked back.

From now on – and I had a good 40 minutes yet to do, entirely on roadways – I was concerned about rain, as strong winds, those harbingers, came and went, and came and went, accompanied by dark grey clouds.

But I did stop for a few minutes as I saw one, then another, red kite soaring high in the sky. This is the best photo I could get, of just one.

Which being enlarged as much as I dare gives:

I was quite pleased to enter the built-up area of town,

after which the road crossed a tributary of the River Irfon, the Nant (stream) Cerdin.

After the jollifications of the previous evening, I was almost alone in the restaurant for my evening meal (though others were having a meal in the bar).

I slept really late the following morning, two hours longer than I normally do. Although this meant I left for my drive home later than I had intended, I was pleased as it must have reflected my relaxed state.

I thought that I had been in the Brecon Beacons during my stay. I have since realised that in fact I was between the Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains. My drive took me back over the Mynydd Eppynt part of the Beacons, which I had not really appreciated on the outward journey, rain, greyness and dark just making me want this long, winding road to come to an end. But it was an altogether different story on my return. It was amazingly beautiful! I could have taken so many photos if the road (which incidentally is through the largest military training area in Wales) had allowed me to stop. Eventually I came to a breezy viewpoint where I could take these two from the same spot, at about 90 degrees from each other.

I really would have liked to have stopped well back on the road on the left, to take a picture of the breathtaking valley head, which, as far as I have been able to identify, is the Cwm (valley) Craig-ddu.

An otherwise uneventful journey had me home, despite the later start than planned, by lunchtime. It was, as ever, so good to see the cats again.

Llanwrtyd Wells – 2

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Back in my room, I perused the Llanwrtyd Wells Town Walk map I had bought at the hotel’s reception, which appeared to be doubling as the local tourist office. Given the weather – it had been mizzling all the while I had been out exploring – and the weather forecast, I decided not to be too ambitious for my afternoon’s exercise, and just do the western half of what was proposed, one way along the River Irfon and back the other.

On the back were very useful instructions and local information.

A wooden footbridge took me over the river, and set me on my way westwards. It was not long before I was in the countryside.

Here the river is in the middle distance.

I could hear a pheasant in a wood to my left, caught a glimpse of it, but was unable to take a satisfactory photo.

I soon left the road, and found myself on a very soggy path beside the river,

which improved somewhat from time to time.

The prescribed route left the river for a bit, and I started to curse myself for having left my walking pole in the car. It was very slippy underfoot, and

just past this rise I slithered onto my back. My small backpack took the worst of the fall, and only my dignity was hurt, as I was obliged to turn over on to my knees in order to get up, thus muddying the knees of my trousers. Good job I had a spare pair (of trousers that is) in my room. I found a sturdy fallen branch to steady me on the rest of the way.

Victoria Wells Holiday Park. It seems to have ceased activity around 2016, and appears now to be occupied residentially.
Dinas Mill

I arrived at St David’s Church, in old Llanwrtyd. “The Celtic cross inside the church [which I couldn’t visit as it was closed] suggests that a church has existed on this site for 1440 years.” (leaflet). From Wikipedia I subsequently learnt a lot more about old Llanwrtyd, including, “The name Llanwrtyd combines the term for church (“llan”) and an otherwise undocumented personal name Gwrtud or Gwrtyd, but the earliest reference to it “Llanworted” appears only in 1543. It is speculated that the original dedication of the church has been replaced by the present one to the more famous saint in whose diocese it was during the Middle Ages.[1] The name is more traditionally derived, however, from ‘Llanddewi wrth y rhyd’ (David’s church by the ford).[2] The church is held to have been founded by St David in the 6th century. The curving boundary around the west side of the churchyard and its location beside the river supports the contention that it was established well before the Norman Conquest. “

There being a bench conveniently placed, it being 1 o’clock, and I being halfway round my circuit, this seemed to be as good a place as any to eat my two biscuits and an apple, all I needed after the full English (vegetarian) breakfast I had had. This was my misty view. (I escaped ‘proper’ rain entirely on this walk.)

The road bridge took me back over the Irfon, and I looked back.

After a while I came to a footbridge marked on the map. As I had to leave the road at this point, I was a little worried that I was intended to cross the river using this apparently flimsy structure.

But I didn’t, and in any case it was less flimsy than it had appeared.

The river turbulented on. (Yes, I’ve made that word up.)

And the path continued to be very wet at times, but here its base was gravelly, so much less slippery. I was grateful nevertheless for my branch.

“.. you will see a group of buildings on the left. These were the original pump house and bathing house when the town was in its original heyday as a Victorian spa resort. Here the pure sulphur spring was hermetically sealed in a massive marble and mosaic circular pedestal covered with a disc of plate glass.” (leaflet)

“The springs here were first discovered in 1732 by Theophilus Evans who claimed to have discovered the healing properties of ‘Ffynon Droellwyd’ (The Stinking Well) when suffering from scurvy”. I approached the Dol-y-Coed Hotel which “was once the centre of leisure including tennis courts and bowling greens in the Dol-y-Coed Park.”

(Oops!)

Except that it turned out to be no longer a hotel, but the premises of what is now the town’s largest employer.

They’ve clearly let the staff off early on Christmas Eve. And/or they’re all working from home.

I was unable to find out what this building near the hotel is – perhaps it’s ‘just’ a private home that likes dressing up. I wondered whether it was a care home, but can’t identify it if so.

Back at the hotel I waited until it was fully dark to slip out in order to take some photos of the town’s Christmas lights. Sadly the street lights distract the camera more that they do the human eye.

The red kite sculpture, right, featured in yesterday’s post, turns grey in these conditions.

This notice at the entrance to the hotel, the start of the evening’s Mari Lwyd torchlit procession, gave due warning. I had already been advised to move my car away.

The hotel’s restaurant was full for the New Year’s Eve dinner, and I had been asked if I would share a table with five locals who had booked in. I could see that this would help the proprietors, releasing the solo table I would have been at, but hesitated quite a lot, for Covid reasons. However I agreed, was reassured as we assembled that the others had taken LF tests that day (as I had the previous day), and I had a very pleasant evening in the event. Two of my companions were a couple who had moved to the area from Kent four months previously, two had moved there from Essex six years previously, and the other was Huw (I do hope he spells his name like that!) the Milk(man), who had been doing the job for 34 years. He had a lovely kind face, and I was told he was real social worker to his customers. He can work up to a 15-hour day, and does so seven days a week. I’m sure he has a fund of stories.

We were to assemble for the Mari Lwyd procession at 10.30 in the Town Square, outside the hotel. A band had started up well before we finished our meal, after which I collected my outdoor gear and camera.

It was tipping with rain, and I hurriedly snatched these poor pictures.

This man carries the Mari Lwyd, a hobby horse with a horse’s skull as its head.

The rain, the crowds, the torches, the anticipated inability to cope with umbrella and camera – not a to mention a torch had I chosen to – I near panicked, and chickened out before the 90-minute procession set off.

Nor did I even stay in the hotel’s bar with my table companions. I went to my room and saw the new year in watching ‘When Harry met Sally’!

But I had been invited to the Kent people, Marion and Pete’s, for coffee the next day, and I was looking forward to that, and to meeting their menagerie.

Llanwrtyd Wells – 1

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Happy New Year!

I spent a pleasant 48 hours over Christmas with relatives in Berkshire. I failed to take any photos, though this one was taken of me by my cousin, Teresa,

Post-box hat one of many crocheted by the Barkham Hookers – think about it – and dress knitted by me. A rare moment during our Christmas Day dog-walk when it wasn’t raining.

she of the boutique Wokingham estate agency, Quarters, for which I am very happy to give a plug, was taken during a rare moment when it wasn’t raining.

I was originally meant to be making music with ten others in South Wales from 27th to 30th December but, concerned about Covid, I withdrew. I was worried that I might have been a party pooper, but was pleased to see from a Facebook post that it had gone ahead with everyone else.

Instead I took up a couple of opportunities (my first) to be a vaccine steward, for a pharmacy in Wedmore, where there were six vaccinators and a couple of volunteers. Fortunately I was indoors, on the damp, though warm, days, and for the most part was kept well and satisfyingly occupied.

The music-making in was only 40 minutes or so from a hotel I had visited back in 1975, in a town which I had first visited in 1961. Both visits had been pony-trekking holidays. The first had been as a mid-teens schoolgirl, with my friend Diane, (when we stayed in a guest house), a trip no doubt cooked up by our respective mothers.

As a total novice on a pony, I was given a very small mount, called Boswell. I felt that I could have touched the ground with my feet!

The second was as a woman in her late 20s, accompanied by her then eleven-year-old cousin, Mary G, (not the same person as my friend Mary H who appears in these posts from time to time).

So in October last year I had planned to go on from the music-making to spend three nights at that same hotel, especially knowing that there was to be a Mari Lwyd procession in ‘the smallest town in Britain’ to see the New Year in. With Omicron and all that I did wonder whether my stay would be cancelled by the Welsh government, or should be by me, but in fact, because of the greater eventual restrictions in Wales than those pertaining in England, I felt reassured, and a few days beforehand I confirmed that I would be turning up.

It was a soggy, soggy drive on 30th December. I stopped in Abergavenny for a coffee at the Angel Hotel, the first place I came to, and where service appeared to reflect the problem that all of ‘hospitality’ is reported to be suffering at present. But I was pleased to sit down quietly, and then spend a few minutes exploring the charming high street. (I had left my camera – and my phone – in the car. Grrr.)

It was nearly dark when I arrived at the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells. Apart from its exterior, and one view of the bar, I could remember nothing of it from 1975. It is a somewhat quirky, comfortable three-star hotel, grade II listed, also apparently suffering from staff shortages. Agreeable enough for three unhurried days.

The following morning, Christmas Eve, I went out for a short walk to get my bearings. LLanwrtyd Wells grew as a spa town in the 19th century but, to quote Wikipedia, “the area is now better known for recreations such as pony trekking, mountain biking, walking and birdwatching, and for its annual Man versus Horse Marathon, Beer Festival and World Bog Snorkeling Championship”. It took very little time to explore each of the radial roads.

The Neuadd Arms is listed Grade II, and I learned later is for sale. The present owners have been there for 20 years.

It’s not a quirk caused by the camera. The two halves really are very slightly at an angle.
The view from the front of the hotel. The main road through town enters from bottom left and leaves, crossing the River Irfon, middle left.

I had tried in advance to book my departing Sunday lunch here at the Drover’s Arms, as it had excellent reviews, but it was going to be shut until 22nd January. I learned in due course that this business also is for sale, and has been for some years.

The River Irfon was very, very high, and fast flowing.
Was this the chapel which Diane and I sought to attend in 1961, but from which we were gently turned away because the service was going to be in Welsh? It’s a sad picture now.
A modern sculpture celebrating the recent return of the red kite to this part of Wales.
Dol-y-Coed Road

An elegant…

… multi-purpose building…

…. next door to which was a coffee place which I had been intending to patronise.

But it was shut for the holidays.

This 19th century Congregational Chapel, which closed in 2009, is now…

the Llanwrtyd and District Heritage and Arts Centre, reopened by voluntary effort in 2016.

Sadly this also was closed, being open only between April and October, though I did notice a poster for a special exhibition which had been held one day early in December.

Back to the hotel, I saw this board on its side. I tried one of the brewery’s products with my New Year’s Day dinner, the Aur Cymru. It was excellent!

Back in my room I checked out where I had been on my short explore.

And planned a longer one.

Uphill, December 2021

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First Friday of the month, so it was time for my next walk with Zoe, and her turn to organise. She chose the nature reserves and environs of Uphill, which is just south along the coast from Weston-super-Mare. For uninteresting reasons my camera was hors de combat for most of the time, so these photos were taken on my phone, with one exception. Despite apparently threatening skies, the weather was kind to us, not too cold, not too windy, and the sun even came out for a short while.

From where we had parked our cars, we set off across a not very interesting golf course, and arrived at the beach. Despite my September holiday in Cornwall, I couldn’t actually remember the last time I had been on one, (though in fact I had crossed one at Marazion, as I walked back from St Michael’s Mount). We looked north to Weston.

We looked out to see the sea. Which we couldn’t, but saw Brean Down, Steep Holm, (owned by the Kenneth Allsop Memorial Trust) and, faintly in the mist, Flat Holm (which I’ve just learned is part of Wales, and managed by Cardiff Council).

The sign says DANGER, SINKING MUD. Many a life has been imperilled along this coast by those ignoring the warning.

And we looked, and then walked, south.

At about the level of Brean Down we left the beach but continued parallel to the sea.

You’d think that the mound ahead gave the area its name, but “The manor is recorded in Domesday Book as Opopille which derives from the Old English Uppan Pylle meaning “above the creek”.[13] The Pill is a tidal creek which joins the River Axe near where the river flows into Weston Bay to the north of Brean Down. The Pill is connected to the Great Uphill Rhyne which drains the moors to the east of the village.” (Wikipedia)

Whatever it is called, there is somewhat less of the hill left now. The sun came out as we reached the old quarry…

… and the old limekiln. The panel explains that this was a particularly fine example of the species, which were mainly built between 1780 and 1850, and that at the time lime was used for liming acid soils, as a basis of mortar, and for whitewash.

The nineteenth century powder house was considerably further on. Its explanatory panel told us that explosive stores were usually situated well away from quarries, in case of explosions caused by sparks or other sources of flame there.

At one point I looked back over my right shoulder to see Brean Down, now well behind us.

Ahead the sun was low and bright, almost too much for the eyes, as it reflected off the briefly tarmac-ed path. I mused on the fact that you would never have taken a photo straight into the sun at the time of my grandmother’s Brownie 127.

In the course of our relatively short walk we found ourselves on at least three different nature reserves: Uphill Hill, Walborough and Bleadon Levels. At this last, we turned right in the direction of the sea, for a hundred yards – or metres – or so. Had we continued south at that point we would have taken this path.

It would have been foolhardy to attempt to cross the saltmarsh to get nearer the sea.

We started northward again toward Brean Down.

Taking great care to avoid puddles – specially as I had forgotten to put my wellies in the car – it was nevertheless possible to raise one’s eyes to look inland from time to time, and to see Uphill Hill, the quarry, the Old Church of St Nicholas, and a beacon lit for various national celebrations. It is what remains of an old windmill, and probably 18th century, says Wikipedia.

Ahead lay the dock area which we had passed on the way out.

I obliged my camera into action to zoom in on these very small ducks which flew into our view. They are teal.

Beside us in due course appeared the creek (right to left) used, when the tide is in, by boats wishing to leave the dock. That silty mud, swept down the River Severn from the Welsh mountains, is why walking on some parts of the beaches in the area is so dangerous.

This sliding wall of concrete beyond the dock is explained …

… by its label.

We stopped at a café by the docks for a coffee, and in my case a custard tart as well.

It was a 15-minute walk back to our cars through the village, during which this pretty bridge from road to a private garden caught my eye.

On my drive home across the Somerset Moors (Levels), trying in vain to avoid a long detour caused by a road closure, I noticed first an enormous erect pillar, with further bits bits lying on the ground by it, which I assumed was to end up as a new wind turbine – nice and blowy I thought in that vast open space. I couldn’t stop to take a photo, but as I went along I saw more of them, more elaborated, and it became clear that, while they were indeed to do with the generation of electricity, they were not some new design for producing power by centrifuge, (I’ll patent that I think), but a new model of electricity pylon.

In due course I was able to stop for a photo.

More information, by the National Grid, about these new T-shaped pylons can be found here, including a two-minute video of one being erected. It shows how monstrous they are in size – though they are apparently a third less tall than the traditionally lattice shaped pylons. They will carry electricity produced at Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station.

The Glastonbury Way, Part 2

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Thanks to the British Pilgrimage Trust, I have now been able to include a plan of the Glastonbury Way, and not just provide a link to the Way’s Facebook page to see one. (Sadly it does not include the Board numbers, being concerned rather with spiritual points of interest.)

In September, Zoe and I had walked Part 1, nearly all of the western half of the Way, cutting out just a little from each end for the sake of convenience. Likewise in November we cut the very beginning of the second part, joining it as it turns east off the central ‘square’ portion.

I took fewer photos this time. The scenery was very attractive, but there was not a great deal of variety. The overall length of the walk was about the same, as can be seen.

On the slopes of Chalice Hill. A myth has it that Joseph of Arimathea buried the Holy Grail somewhere around here.
The original wooden St Michael’s Church, on the top of the adjacent Glastonbury Tor, crumbled in an earthquake in 1275. Only the tower, visible through the trees, and lower than it once was, of the 14th century stone church now remains.
Over the left shoulder, Bushy Coombe and beyond it the town centre.
A brief rest at the beginning of Paradise Lane

The views to the north across an outpost of the Somerset (Levels and) Moors, all along the west-east ridge that is Paradise Lane, are lovely, and it was difficult not to overshoot – photos that is.

According to the weather forecast, we should have lost the sun by now, but we didn’t for another hour or so.

Double take

In the distance,

using the zoom on my camera, can be seen the tower of St Cuthbert’s Church in Wells, and the city’s cathedral. The radio mast (Mendip Transmitting Station) can be seen for miles around, and even in Wales when its red safety lights show up at night.

‘Gog and Magog [I quote from the app] are the only surviving exemples of the Avalon Oaks. These were a group of oaks that were mostly felled in 1906. One of these great oaks possessed a diameter of 10 feet 9 inches, (3.35 m) and a circumference of 34 feet 4 inches (10.5m). This suggests an age of at least one thousand years. Gog is now expired having been damaged by fire in 2017. Magog survives and provides a living link with our mediaeval past.’

It was a hard slog up the long Stone Down Lane, parallel with Paradise Lane, and this is the only photo I took on the way.

Once arrived at the Tor, we decided not to go up, but to take the alternative route round it.

Once round the other side, we came to the Chalice Well area. One of the houses had a most beautiful fuchsia at the side of the road. I took lots of photos of the bush, and chose this one.

This is not in fact the Chalice Well, which is accessible only behind a pay wall (as it were!) This is the White Spring and Temple. Whenever I have passed it before it has had many ‘alternative’ people there, and I have not ventured close.

Chalice Well is round the corner.

The description of the formal Way ends here, but those who parked their car near Glastonbury Information Centre, where the Way starts, would have ten minutes further to walk. It was eight minutes or so in the opposite direction to my house. We noted this panel on the side of a house on the main road we had to cross.

Once you get past the Gattle, Goats, Garriages and Garts, the Gows and the Galves (I like that spelling in principle) the charge for hippies sort of gives the game away.

We headed away from Glastonbury for our ‘pub’ lunch, and found that our destination in Butleigh no longer served food at lunchtimes. That led to the serendipitous discovery of a very nice coffee shop there, which served much more than its description suggested.

The Glastonbury Way, Part 1

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Not meaning the way Glastonians do things, (that’s way beyond my comprehension!) but a waymarked walking route created a few months ago, with finance from the Towns Deal, and expert contributions from Glastonbury Town Council, Mendip District Council, (soon to be abolished, as Somerset County Council becomes unitary) and a host of volunteers.

My friend Zoe and I have done it in two parts as our first Friday walks in September and November, and I thought I would write the two walks up in consecutive posts. (It was Zoe’s turn to organise our October walk.)

The Way starts at the information office in the centre of town, but it suited us to start from my house on the edge, and to pick it up somewhat before Point 2. (The Way’s Facebook page of the Way is headed by a map. There are two sets of numbers, mostly coinciding but not always. I think the alternative set is something to do with the ‘mystical’ side of Glastonbury, which does tend to escape me. My references are to those preceded by ‘B’,which I think stands for ‘board’.)

As it happens, we walked back to my house after lunch past the official starting point at the Information Centre, and here is Board 1. A plan of the walk is bottom left, and that day we did (most of) the western circuit.

The walk is described in some detail in an app, (‘The Glastonbury Way’) which also gives all the information supplied on the boards, in writing and aurally.

We joined the Way at Wearyall Hill, (sometimes written as Wirral). The origins of the name are unknown, possibly coming from the legend that Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury bearing the chalice used at the Last Supper. He is said to have arrived by boat (Glastonbury then being an island, or perhaps a peninsula, in the middle of marshy, swampy land) and, weary, he planted his staff in the ground, which became the famous Glastonbury Thorn, of which a sprig is given to the monarch on Christmas Day to decorate her breakfast table.

Looking back over right shoulder to the town. The towers of St John’s Church and St Benedict’s Church, and the Abbey ruins can just about be made out.
Looking directly back, to the Tor and, somewhere in there, where I live
Looking right, due north, to a small retail park

At the end of the ridge which is Wearyall Hill we came to Board 3.

At useful, and usually rather scenic, points along the Way there are welcome seats.

Down from Wearyall Hill, you can still see the Moors (aka Somerset Levels), the fairly recently opened Premier Inn to the right, and on the left the old Morland (‘Bauhaus’) factory, now known locally as the Zigzag building, which is in the process of renovation and new purposes.

Some features on the Way have been around for a long time.

We then took:

though it’s not even straight.

Pomparles Bridge crosses the very busy main road linking Glastonbury to Street, It’s name is a mutation of Pons Perilis, assumed to mean bridge of peril, (though if it does, it must be a mediaeval abbreviation of the classical latin word, ‘periculis’.) The app tells us that ‘Its name is related to Siege Perilous, the seat at King Arthur’s Round Table kept for the knight destined to find the Holy Grail but fatal for any other occupant.’

The River Brue was incredibly low that September day. I have never even seen the grasses above water level, let alone laid down like this.

Nor have I seen elsewhere any sign saying in effect ‘beware of the badger works’! This was after we had crossed the busy road at, fortunately, a lights-controlled pedestrian crossing.

‘Bride (pronounced ‘Breed’) was one of the most widely worshipped goddesses in Celtic Britain.’ Archaeology shows that there was a small chapel on the site of Bride’s Mound, and also a cemetery dating from Romano-British times. 12th and 4th century writings say that St Brigid of Kildare visited Glastonbury in 488 AD, and spent some time here.

At this point we were following the river bank, and theoretically we should have been able to follow signs right, across to Bride’s Mound, subsequently retracing our steps, but we couldn’t find those signs. Pity, because in 10 years, I have not yet seen the Mound.

It was extraordinary to see the banks of the Brue so deep, due to lack of water. Water levels across the entire Somerset Moors and Levels are incredibly closely managed by the Somerset Rivers Authority.

Came a point where we were a little perplexed as to where to go, as there appeared to be a kink which did not appear on the plan. But we trusted to the waymarks and all was well.

Now a footpath, this bridge once carried the single-track Somerset and Dorset railway line over the river. It is known locally as ‘Ackidock’, from the aqueduct that was also here once.
I know nothing about this, nor does the app/board say anything. On enlarging to a maximum, I can just read, centre-left top, ‘The Royal Bank of Scotland’, which also appears once more in the otherwise illegible text. Please add a comment if you can enlighten.

Willow Walk is well-named.

A lovely spot for a picnic lunch we thought – though we were planning to eat at a pub.

The explanation for the creation of the pleasant spot however was sad.

It was perfectly possible to read Board 8 – but impossible to take a photo of it in its entirety.

We shortly came into a light industrial area, and as we neared the centre of town, we cut a little away from the Way’s official route, to make more directly for our lunch place. We passed my doctors’ surgery.

And ended up at the ‘Who’d a Thought It’, just off the Market Place, where we had a good lunch, and also a discussion with the innocent waitress as to whether it was really necessary to wrap our cutlery and paper napkin in horrid little plastic ties, single use to boot. (I will get around to that Glastonbury Mural Trail some time.)

The walk back to my house took us through the Market Square. The official route, in effect starting part 2, would have taken us up the High Street, off right in this photo. I have blogged on that previously.

To be continued.

The Newt in Somerset – October 2021

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A couple of weeks ago, I took another friend to visit The Newt in Somerset. Peter was down from Manchester to lead a singing workshop, which I was organising for the South West Early Music Forum the following day. Three times postponed because of you-know-what, initially from April 2020, but that’s a whole other story.

Apples are always the principal theme at The Newt, but especially so at this time of year, as the display in the Threshing Barn illustrated.

They featured in the window of the farm shop as well. Their apple juice is delicious.

(Given that I have already posted so many pictures taken at The Newt in Somerset, I have limited the number posted here.)

We learned that the Japanese Garden would be opening a week later.

Next we walked up the Mound, where we saw a few Shaggy Inkcaps.

The Cottage Garden

Still plenty of colour, though we’re well into the autumn.

Peter noticed the curious ‘steps’ in the chimney stack.

Into the Scented Garden.

The mischievous frogs were disappointed that there were no small children around to squirt water at, though clearly some adults have been by, setting off the sensors.

Access to the (very) luxury hotel, Hadspen House, is prevented by the gate out of sight below this image. Actually they’ve just opened another luxury hotel, called The Farmyard, adjacent.

The Kitchen Garden

We were impressed by the great variety of cucurbits growing in their tunnel. Over the year, I have seen these grow from tiny unidentifiable plants, into large flowering ones, and now fruiting ones.

I wonder if the tunnel will be used for the same purpose next year, or for something different.

Inside The Parabola, the main feature of which is hundreds of varieties of apple trees.

After an excellent meal in the Garden Café, we walked though the Deer Park.

As ever, the walkway’s supports look as if they are suspended in mid-air, but in fact they are very firmly attached to the ground. I love walking up there among the trees but that is not to everyone’s inclination.
At the far end of the deer park is this ancient stile, blocked off now to visitors. The hole may perhaps be for a foot, since it is too small to allow anything larger than a hedgehog through.

Walking back through the woodland, we did get a fleeting glimpse of a couple of fallow deer. This is the best I could do, photo-wise.

Back to the entrance/exit via the old Marl Pits.

Another happy visit to The Newt in Somerset. We had to leave – we had things to do relating to the following day, written up here for those interested.

Yeo Valley and Chew Valley

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Anyone following the Chelsea Flower Show this autumn (it’s normally held in spring) will be familiar with the name, Yeo Valley, makers of organic dairy products. Their organic garden won the People’s Choice Award for large show garden this year, not bad for first-time participants.

I had visited their garden, with my friend, Zoe, previously – it is situated roughly halfway between the homes of each of us – but the weather had been miserable on that occasion, and we didn’t get as much from the outing as we might have done. Our birthdays fall close to each other, and, for our October birthday ‘first Friday’ monthly walk, we decided to visit the garden, and make a day of it, visiting other places in the area afterwards. We went on the second Saturday, as in October the garden only opens to the public on Saturdays, and this was forecast to have better weather than the first.

In fact the weather was gorgeous. The autumn mist above us allowed the hazy sun to bless us early in the morning, and had disappeared entirely by lunchtime. My camera clicked away – I couldn’t restrain it. In the order I took them:

At the entrance – some of the plants returned from the Chelsea Flower Show, awaiting the reconstruction of the Show Garden
Sarah Mead, head gardener, resident for 25 years and original developer of the garden

On 23rd November, I shall be ‘going to’ this talk by Sarah Mead and designer Tom Massey, on how the Show Garden came about.

One of several metal sculptures in the garden
We are approaching the café where we will stop for coffee
View from the café’s terrace
The egg is that featured in the show garden, though I imagine this may only be a temporary placement
Blagdon Lake in the distance
A small woodland area
Closer inspection of the egg when occasion offered
Zoe told me that this building has some connection with the planning in BBC2’s ‘Your Garden Made Perfect’.
A small boy and a big girl play with the mirrors
Given that it was getting on for mid-October, there was an amazing amount of colour.

At midday our allotted time was up, and we had seen just about everything there was to be seen. Zoe knew of a great fish and chips place, Salt and Malt, by the side of Chew Valley Lake, just a short distance away. Alas, I took photos of neither the view nor the fish and chips, but both were very good.

We drove round the Lake to the next car park, intending to do the short ‘Grebe Walk’, which would take us firstly through some woodland, and then along the lake to see, theoretically, grebes among other birds.

But on the return leg we saw nothing but reeds in the lake at that end. Whether this was deliberate cultivation for wildlife reasons, or because of Covid-related (or other) neglect we could not tell.

We walked on beyond the car park to see what we could see. We couldn’t get closer to the lake than this.

Zooming my camera showed me that the boats were colourful.

And, looking back, gave me the chance to see some unidentifiable birds.

We had no desire to find ourselves back at the fish and chip place, so turned back to where our car was parked, with a view to winding down from our day’s outing. The drive back to Zoe’s, where my car was, took us along a quite busy road, which serves as a dam of the lake, and which is actually a reservoir owned by Bristol Water, the fifth-largest artificial lake in England. The lake is also a nature reserve and an SSSI.

There were many people leaning on the rail, but the birds were unfazed.

Mr and Mrs Mallard
Black-headed gull in winter plumage keeping watch while his friends take a nap
Shoveller duck – eclipse plumage – and ?young moorhens
Moorhen

Zoe and I had not quite finished putting the world to rights, so before I got into my car, we had a cup of tea in her garden, and I admired the mini-woodland she and her husband are creating there.

Cornwall 3- 12. The Eden Project

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I was homeward bound on Saturday, 11th September, but could not let pass the opportunity to visit on the way this world-renowned project. I had a booking for 11.00. My satnav the evening before told me that I would need 90 minutes to get there, which surprised me somewhat, but I allowed two hours. As I left my BnB at 9.00 it was saying I would need 65 minutes – the difference between Friday evening and Saturday morning traffic I suppose. But thank goodness I had all that leeway. There were huge hold-ups on the A30, due I think to road closures elsewhere, with traffic being funnelled on to this road. In the event I arrived just 10 minutes before my ticket’s time.

It was quite a walk between my car park down to the entrance – but not so far that I qualified for the shuttle bus. Just one more car park up and …

I find I have 108 photos, and have found it incredibly difficult to make a selection. I have only managed to cut them down to 58 – sorry – and they give only a glimpse into what was to be seen.

Here’s the plan from my pre-ordered guide. I should like to have been able to sit down and study it in greater depth before going round, but things were well-labelled.

Basically, I wandered around the Outdoor Gardens and then the Crops, which I think is how it is intended you should, then visited first the Rainforest Biome, followed by the Mediterranean one (only about a third the area, but with a few more species), then went along the Avenue to the Core. I seem to have missed the Zigzag through Time, and I don’t think I did justice to the Invisible Worlds.

My photos are largely without commentary.

I think this next picture is my very favourite of the day.

This queue (note one person peeling off left)…

… was for this. Good fun!

There was a link corridor, with shops and café, to the …

About 15 minutes into the Rainforest Biome, there was a notice warning people who were finding it too hot to turn back, as it was another 30 minutes to the exit. (A one-way system was in operation with little byways roped off, presumably because of Covid.) The Mediterranean Biome was also hot, in a lovely dry Mediterranean way, but I was very pleased to find this almost unpatronised drinks bar near its exit. Time for a chilled elderflower cordial.

Frim time to time there was a swooshing sound from above. I had just days ago watched Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin on television on a zipline, and thought, ‘How I would love to do that!’. And here would have been my opportunity! If I had known in advance about the possibility here, I would definitely have looked into it. As it was, I picked up a leaflet when I left.

‘Infinity Blue’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Seed’ were the two main attractions in the Core.

Perfect smoke (or rather vapour) rings every time. They represent Oxygen.
‘Seed’ was about twice my height.

‘Infinity Blue’ from an upper floor. In about a decade it may be lowered into the sea as a reef habitat for marine life. (It’s not crooked, my camera was.)

Up a lift, across a bridge, and it was back to the entrance/visitor centre/exit…

… for a coffee before setting off on the rest of my journey home. I was amused to see this old coffee making machine on display, sadly not in use.

How to reflect on eight such days? I was absolutely shattered for a while after my return, but so happy to have spent my time so fully. Cornwall is a such a beautiful place, with so much to explore and experience. I tried, and I think I succeeded, not to let an underlying fear of Covid spoil my enjoyment, though it was unnerving to see so many people, freed of legal obligation, appearing to believe that if they did not wear masks indoors the risk was only to themselves, not to others. But it was heartening also to see how many did wear masks, especially those serving, in whatever setting.

I have to go back. I have to make that helicopter trip. I have to use more those various guides to archology, geology, walks, built places to visit. My Eden Project ticket is valid for a year! (I could – perhaps – go on that zipline…) I’m already thinking that I may take another holiday in the county next June, perhaps based at Hayle this time.