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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First thing, the Microsoft system reminded me of a photo I had taken 15 years previously, to the day. I posted it on Facebook, with the following text.
“The Kennet and Avon Canal about a mile from Hungerford, where I had left my car. Living in France at the time, I was there to visit a bench I had sponsored in memory of my parents who had loved the canal, and had, little by little, walked it end to end. What I didn’t know as I took this photo was that the couple in the left hand boat were Timothy West and Prunella Scales, and that the former had just jiggered his ankle slipping down a damp grassy bank. Five minutes later I was steering the right hand boat, the owners of which were helping the Wests run their own boat.
“Once we had all arrived at Hungerford, the couple, Prunella having secured the boat, transferred to my car, and I drove them to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. They were much more interested in talking about me than themselves, and it emerged that the night before they had dined with the Norringtons. Roger had been a major influence on me musically decades earlier.” And here’s the photo:
I went out for a much longer walk than previously in the afternoon. I had realised that a busy road near me, which could get me to the River Brue, should not be so busy in the present circumstances. I often forget to put a watch on, but didn’t this time – and found that it was still showing Greenwich Mean Time, three weeks on from the clocks going forward.
I live on a modern estate on the edge of the Somerset Levels. Looking right as I walked out of it, along a cul-de-sac Wearyall Hill is to be seen. Traditionally Joseph of Arimathea planted his staff here.
The River Brue used to run where the road serving the estate now runs. But over the centuries, the watercourse has been much modified, through drainage of marshy ground and pragmatic straightening. Near me, the river is almost entirely canalised, work done in the thirteenth century by the monks of Glastonbury Abbey. Here I have crossed the road, and into a field, and looking back I don’t think I had ever previously noticed just how splendid some of the trees now lining the road are.
I’m shortly at the ‘busy’ road which will take me down to the Brue, and yet again I’m envious of those living in houses up on Wearyall Hill for the lovely view they have across the Moors.
I turn left, and see what they can see, the Polden Hills in the distance.
The busy road dips to begin with, and sometimes in winter it is flooded, so closed. It is only at about 7 metres above sea level here, although some 20 miles or so inland, and if rainwater cannot drain towards the sea, because the land is so waterlogged and the many water courses too full, it just stays here. (By the way, while I had thought the road would be empty of traffic, and indeed it is empty in his photo, it was in fact quite busy, though not to the extent that I felt unsafe.)
These, to my left, on a field which is frequently flooded, reminded me of the 17th century (or earlier) song, ‘The Three Ravens’, though these are crows.
Ahead, the embankment which contains the canalised Brue,
and the road has to rise steeply at Cow Bridge.
I go over Cow Bridge and turn right, off the road. Others had had the same idea, but it was just about possible to keep the appropriate distances.
To my left a rhyne (pronounced ‘reen’), with the which the landscape is riddled for miles around. Landowners are obliged to keep them maintained so that water may flow freely.
Cows to my right,
and sheep to my left.
I arrive at Clyce Hole measuring station,
or is it Clyse Hole? The Environment Agency doesn’t seem to know, though the OS map and the EA flood warning website seem to favour the latter. The water level is low, so the weir is impressive.
It is a popular wild swimming spot, and there were several families there, swimming, paddling, sunbathing…
After this point, I met no-one else on this side of the river, though there were people – and dogs! – out for their walks on the other side, (though not in this picture).
Ah. I hadn’t thought about stiles, and touching them. Hm. Should have brought my surgical spirit spray, (I have no hand gel) especially as I keep lifting my camera to my face. Oh well, next time. But it’s nice to have such easy stiles! There were several of them from now on. And from now on the river seems to be following its original contours.
A most unprepossessing bridge, apart for its name, Pomparles (pronounced PompArlez) Bridge. Until pretty recently it was called Pons Perilis, the dangerous bridge. It carries the main road, causeway, from Glastonbury to Street, and indeed the bridge and the river mark the boundary between the two.
And frankly, that road seemed to me to be almost as busy as ever. Fortunately, I was able to remain down in the field instead of walking along its wide pavement,
until I came to a rhyne.
There was escape to my right, and I had to walk along that pavement for 100 metres or so.
From there, on the outskirts of the urban part of Street, I saw its parish church across the field.
Having turned left,
it would have been very unsociable of me not to call a bridge friend on the phone and invite him to come to the window and wave. But I found I hadn’t got his number on me, so I did something I had never done before in my life – I rang a doorbell and ran away! But only ten yards. B. emerged from his back garden and we chatted for a few minutes. I left with his permission to publish his photo and a request to pass on to other bridge contacts to keep safe.
I diverted from the logical route for a couple of minutes to take photos of the 14th century church,
and the much missed Strode Theatre. It is a fully equipped theatre, (I went on a back-stage tour last year and was very impressed) which must be unique. With the Clark (shoes) family behind it, it was constructed in 1963 to serve not only as a theatre, but as as the local school hall and a not-for-profit cinema. It has been much developed since. (I say ‘much missed’ only because I had three ticket for films for 26th March to 30th April which have fallen the way of all gatherings in recent weeks. Like everyone, I look forward enormously to such places re-opening.)
I could have crossed another field and returned back along the Brue, but I chose to take a road which, in normal times I drive along, there and back, about three times a week, but which I had never walked. This for two reasons: to enjoy the avenue of trees, which remind me of similar in France, and on the outside chance I might see a pair of swans.
The road had been nicely empty, with just the occasional cyclist or two, but I was beginning to think that I was not going to see any swans, when:
Left again on to Cow Bridge Road, and the sight of Glastonbury Tor accompanies me home. My house is somewhere in there.
I found it striking that there there had been so much foliage on the trees compared with those in my first picture 15 years ago, taken at the same latitude, on the same day of the year.
When I got in, I baked a cake. What’s so strange about that? It’s just that I never bake, the flour was ‘best before’ June 2017, the bicarbonate of soda ‘best before’ 1998 (I bought in it the UK before I moved to France in 1995, and brought it back from there in 2011), and the vanilla essence didn’t even have a B B date on it, as it was older than that system! The cake was/is delicious.