I was so excited about heading South West, anyone that knows me well knows my love of the West Country, both Devon and Cornwall have a wealth of historic landmarks which have been pulling at my heartstrings for many years. I have distinctive memories of walking through crumbled ruins, exploring, climbing up, squeezing through, sneaking off-limits, re-imagining what might’ve been. It was about time I shared my love of two of my favourite spots in England, Cheddar and Glastonbury.
Cheddar Gorge & Caves holds many fascinating secrets about our prehistoric ancestors, and is an international centre for caving and rock climbing. Earlier this year in fact, DNA Scientists put a face to Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton found in Gough’s cave from 10000 years ago. Visitors have been coming to Cheddar for centuries to view the magnificent limestone Gorge, reaching 500 feet in places. The ravine boasts the highest inland cliffs in the country that can be viewed from the public road running through the gorge or from footpaths along the top of the cliffs.
As well as offering two beautiful caves ,Cheddar is of course home to Cheddar Cheese. It seemed only fitting that on this beautifully sunny day we climb the 274 steps up Jacob’s Ladder to tuck into some of the cave aged cheese on a romantic cliff top walk. The previous October I had taken the same trip with friend Luke on a cold misty afternoon- we managed to get some eerily atmospheric shots from the same location (see Blog post Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig).
We’d booked ourselves into a refurbished milk shed in cute little Mudeford, but first we were getting a little thirsty. No trip to Cheddar was complete without a trip to Roger Wilkins cider farm. Think thick Somerset farmer accents, old gits sitting around talking shite with massive grins on their faces, welcoming anybody that came in to experience this little known time capsule. Roger became quite curious whilst chatting to Hendrik, and his ‘out of place’ accent attracted a few local blokes to ask about his background. Funnily enough one of the farmers who was partaking in a tipple or two, spends 6 months of the year farming in Christchurch NZ. It’s the sort of place that offers you cider until you can’t stand and if you look closely you can see it ‘s affect on the concreted floor below (how is Roger still alive?!) it’s tastes bloody lovely though. That evening we treated ourselves to a lush curry and a good amount of booze, later taking a very dark peaceful walk home to our barn for the night gazing at the stars.
Glastonbury is a town in southwest England. It’s known for its ancient and medieval sites, many rich in myth, as well as hosting the famously awesome music festival. Whilst soaking up the eccentric atmosphere of Glastonbury there are a few sites definitely worth packing into your day, so our day two was devoted to this wonderfully unique place.
Arriving early, the happy feels of familiarity kicked in parking up in the centre of town –it was another gorgeously sunny day. Driving from Cheddar the iconic Glastonbury Tor silhouette became closer on the horizon, this trip was becoming more exciting by the minute, largely because I was in the best company with someone I cared for so much and always hoped one day I’d find the right person to share my favourites places with.
Glastonbury Tor is a tower-topped hill linked to Arthurian legend, overlooking the marshy Somerset Levels. Once said to be King Arthur’s burial place. It was whilst planning our trips away from the comfort of the caravan that the story of King Arthur dominated many of my favourite sites, we’d seen the round table at Winchester, the sword Excalibur beautifully recreated in the cheddar landscape, Glastonbury Abbey – believed to be the final resting place of Arthur and his Lady Guinevere. In preparation for our trip everything seemed to slot into place, as it always does, and we found a shared love of the King Arthur legend and particularly it’s retelling in the Sam Neill televised film Merlin (it’s old, and still brilliant, do watch it – not to be confused with the watered down BBC series Merlin) anyway, I’m going off point a little…
Glastonbury Abbey is a beautiful ruined monastery dating to the 7th century, and it seemed the perfect starting point as it was peaceful early morning and we had much of it to ourselves. Hendrik found interest in the hugely old Holy Thorn trees (deeply rich in Christian symbolism) and the charismatic yew trees we so enjoyed finding in our travels.
There are a host of mostly pagan/artistic shops lining the streets offering crystals, herbs, witchcraft items, King Arthur related and sacred symbolic gifts in all shapes and forms. A favourite shop provides an ancient apothecary for plants and herbs for health and wellbeing, selling the best smelling oils you could hope to find, needless to say I treated myself to some.
After the decent hike up to the Tor and a peaceful lay down in the grass we walked through sheep filled fields towards Chalice Well. Chalice Well is one of Britain’s most ancient wells, nestling in the Vale of Avalon between the famous Glastonbury Tor and Chalice Hill. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards it is a living sanctuary in which the visitor can experience the quiet healing of this sacred place. For over two thousand years this has been a place where people have gathered to drink the waters and find solace, peace and inspiration. The Vesica Pisces as seen on the well lid are two overlapping, intersecting spheres, which are an ancient symbol used in Pagan culture, Christian symbolism and sacred geometry, as well as various other belief systems. A spear or a sword bisects these two circles, a possible reference to Excalibur, the sword of the legendary King Arthur, believed by some to be buried at the nearby Glastonbury Abbey.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the well has been in almost constant use for at least two thousand years. Water issues from the spring at a rate of 250,000 gallons per day and has never failed, even during drought. Iron oxide deposits give water a reddish hue, the water is reputed to possess healing qualities. There is certainly an energy to the place.
We took our time here, we paused in the warm sunlight, bathed our feet, feeling completely content in the moment, in the space, together.
Soundtrack: The Unthanks – Mount The Air