Glastonbury in Somerset is well known around the world as a centre for religious and spiritual work, as an earth chakra that channels energies through the globe, as an historic city that has inspired so many. My travels have taken me all over this peculiar island called Britain and as May Day dawned I found myself on the Isle of Glas, walking slowly in the cold bright morning air, past the Chalice Well Gardens to the foot of the hill known as the Tor.
Glastonbury Tor has excited visionary souls for centuries with its amazing views and distinctive outline. A church was built on its summit. Today only the tower remains, an extraordinary landmark, visible for miles around.
I was grateful for the concrete steps that count out the climb from the base to the apex. The church tower, usually so ubiquitous in views from the neighbouring towns, villages and hill tops, vanishes from sight the closer you get to it. My focus turned to my breath as the cold air chafed the back of my throat. When I stopped to rest by a rounded rock I noticed that another pilgrim had been on the Tor before me and left a tulip behind, orange with a red stripe.
The Tor rises 158 metres above the levels with the distinctive St Michael’s tower echoing this morning to the sounds of pigeons cooing and flapping and a small group of humans chanting a mantra. At the base of the hill a chorus of lambs rose to counterpoint the quiet meditative atmosphere.
I came up this hill with my daughter, Maya, a few years ago now, in heavy snow. We watched the sun break through heavy grey clouds to fire deep red beams of wintry light across the white Somerset fields. Today the Tor was surrounded by mist, a white sea that hid all human activity. Away to the East I could make out King Alfred’s Tower, to the North, the mast at Wells, to the South I could make out a thin line that was the hill where Castle Cary lay. To the East? Nothing, but on a clear day I swear its possible to see Wales.
One sunny afternoon, many summers ago, we were all on the top of the Tor as a family. All five of us. We came with a picnic and the weather was brilliant, clear, warm and with just a suggestion of a breeze. The rabbits ran around below us and magpies, crows and hawks all whirled around above us, chasing thermals, and each other, high into the sky.
Another favourite English hill is Cadbury Castle at South Cadbury, just off the A303 in Somerset. It is a wonderful space with views and woodland and a magic oak tree and cows. Sometimes this incredible place can be yours alone. Sometimes there are Morris dancers. You have been warned!