My first trip to Glastonbury was to the festival in 1995 when the town was a passing blur before we joined the throng. Ever since then I have wanted to go back and have a proper look round. A few weeks ago, I finally got my chance.
It was a whirlwind 36-hour stay, but I managed to see almost everything I’d set my heart on. If you’ve ever read one of my articles you’ll know that I have a fascination with witches. Add into the mix my love of cats and you’ll understand how impossible it was to resist a shop like Cat and Cauldron. It was stuffed full of books on the occult and witchcraft, alongside cloaks and all kinds of magical type paraphernalia. Next, I popped into the famed Mystic Garden Gallery to gaze longingly at some amazing art by Linda Ravenscroft, and craft pieces by artisans.
Then we wound our way around the town trying to see as much as possible. Some of the shops sold the same items ad infinitum but there were also some astonishing sights. Now, I like crystals as much as the next person, but some of the ones we saw were massive (think beer fridge size) and worth thousands of pounds. Then there was the chap selling the most intricate handmade wands on the street and, further up, three worse for wear old hippies were singing punk tunes and using an old coffee tin as a drum outside the church.
Finally, tucked away in a courtyard just off the High Street, I found what I’d been looking for: Star Child, a purveyor of all things herbal. On entering the shop, the smell was heady with incense and the dim lighting came largely from candles scattered all around. It was like being transported back in time. The shelves groaned with thousands of herbal remedies, dried plants and tinctures. I walked in, took a deep breath and said “I’m home”, and wished to the tips of my toes that we had a similar establishment near our house. With so much to choose from I couldn’t take it all in, even the goddess sculptures were breathtaking.
Realising we were on a tight schedule, we eventually left the shop and headed to where we would be staying for the night. Keen to be close to the Tor we’d booked one of the E-dens featured in George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. The little pod was cosy, and surprisingly comfortable. My only bug bear was the bathroom was situated in another pod up the path – not ideal for nocturnal piddling – but, to be honest, with a view like ours it would be difficult to whinge.
The weather was gloriously hot while we were there, so hot that I couldn’t climb Glastonbury Tor which was on my To Do list. Instead, we plumped for food and and our spectacular view. As the light began to fade we decided to stretch our legs and walked towards the Tor, over a little sty, and immediately realised we had accidentally stumbled into an old apple orchard. As a self-confessed apple tree fan, I was spellbound by the many varieties. Suddenly, I realised I was looking at mistletoe. This might not sound earth-shattering but I have never seen mistletoe growing wild and I’m told it’s rare these days. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, it was growing on almost every tree in huge balls. I was so awestruck that all the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I tried to take as many pictures as possible on my old digital camera before the light began to diminish. All was quiet except for our feet rustling in the grass, and the atmosphere in the orchard was utterly tranquil. I immediately understood why so many people consider Glastonbury their spiritual home.
The following morning was another scorcher so we decided to head to the Chalice Well before embarking on the long journey home. The Chalice Well has been visited for more than 2,000 years and is housed in a beautiful garden setting. We had tried to visit the previous evening and had been unable to park, so this time we arrived early and waited for it to open.
I’d been looking forward to a chilled out spiritual experience, like everyone else I know who has visited before. But unfortunately it wasn’t to be. To begin with we were given conflicting information about where to purchase tickets, and every staff member we spoke to was either curt and flustered or just down right rude. By the time we finally got inside we were in no mood to feel chilled. The garden setting was lovely but we had been held up so much by the staff we had almost no time left to enjoy it. I filled some bottles up for friends at one of the springs and left. The wellsprings did have a uniquely peaceful atmosphere, it was just a shame that its guardians didn’t channel any of that timeless serenity. On the plus side, I did manage to pick up some thyme and clary sage plants from the shop to add to my herb garden, so every cloud.
Driving home I couldn’t help thinking that the most sacred place of all had been the orchard we accidentally found, and I know it will be the thing I remember most about the trip. Considering it is such a tourist attraction, Glastonbury still manages to feel authentic, if a little peculiar (but in a good way). Even though we managed to cram an awful lot into those 36 hours, the town left me wanting more, there is still so much left to explore. Maybe next year.
DISCLAIMER: These are some of my personal experiences combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate. In the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult a herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the plants mentioned above then please stop using them immediately. Always take care when identifying plants.