Now, some of you may be wondering what Glastonbury Tor is doing on my list and I can’t really blame you. In the NT handbook, it is denoted on the map with a Houses & Gardens triangle but further details appear in the Coast & Countryside green pages which makes its classification more than a little ambiguous. The tower atop the Tor is perhaps the reason it warrants a Houses & Gardens tag but this is simply an old church tower and while you can walk through it and sit in it, it certainly doesn’t qualify as a ‘house’. I am sure I could debate the point at some length but I won’t; I’ll simply say that it’s on the list because I’d never been there and wanted to take a look. So that’s that!
There is no parking at the Tor itself (except a few disabled spaces) so if you want to have a look for yourselves, I would recommend the route we took, which is to park in Magdalene Street near the Abbey and catch the Tor Bus tour bus up to the tour, sorry Tor. This runs every half an hour in the season, although between 1pm and 2pm the driver is taking his lunch break so there is a brief pause in proceedings. The bus is fairly small so the friendly driver is able to chat with the passengers and give a little further information about the Tor and the area en route.
We actually had a lunch date to get to in Shepton Mallet today so we couldn’t stick around at the Tor for long. However, the half an hour between buses was plenty of time for us to climb the steps and concrete path up to the top, take a few pictures, and walk back down. Unfortunately, it was a fairly hazy September day so although the top of the Tor was in bright sunshine, the more distant view was limited. It’s a pity as there’s a useful compass wheel pointing out all the things you can see from the top, but very few of these were visible this morning.
However, what we could see of the flat Somerset Levels below was actually a poignant reminder of the winter storms and the flooding that so many Somerset people had to endure. You really can’t tell today that there was ever a problem but we could just imagine how different the view must have looked only eight or nine months ago.
I won’t go into the history of the Tor but there are sign boards at the bottom of the hill and another in the church tower so we learnt a bit about both the geology of the Tor and its legends, an odd blend of fact and myth. One fact that I thought we could be certain of was the height of the Tor but one sign board gives it as 521 feet, while the other says 158 metres, which converts into 518 feet, the same figure that is also given on the compass wheel at the top. If anyone wants to measure it to clarify this, do let me know!
And last but by no means least, a visit in the autumn may result in a slightly hazy view but it does bring the delightful sight of swallows flitting across the slopes and around the tower. I am reliably informed by the good old Internet that the collective term is a ‘flight’ or ‘gulp’ of swallows, but whatever it’s called, it’s a beautiful sight on a warm September morning.
PS: Although a couple of my photos might suggest otherwise, the tower does not have a Pisa-like lean. This could be an optical illusion or simply bad photography but I thought I’d better clarify that it does actually stand up straight!
Highlights: The swallows; the (potential!) views