Glastonbury, Wells & Bath
Trip Start Apr 01, 2010
28Trip End Jul 31, 2010
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Over the course of the day we saw a few Gandalfs and Earth Mothers (plus lots of crystals, yoga classes, and dulcimers), as we clambered up the Tor and wandered through Glastonbury town
Late in the afternoon, we reclaimed our packs and hiked across the boggy, aptly-named Levels to Wells, a very pretty old cathedral town. The next day we made it to the cathedral in time to clatter into the midday Communion service - by far the youngest, noisiest, and sweatiest communicants of the eight or so celebrating that day. We were welcomed with very good grace, and spent a half hour afterward exploring the massive church, which holds the world's second oldest working clock (an elaborate, 600+ year-old device with jousting knights striking bells every quarter hour and a dial depicting quite accurately the phase of the moon) and a unique 'scissor arch' design supporting the central tower, heavier than the usual Gothic arches but if anything even more effective at conveying a sense of celestial space. Looking up through those arches felt like a glimpse through an orrery, with orbits and heavenly bodies modeled on a grand scale.
We had lunch in the green square outside the cathedral, then hiked up into the hills, where views of Glastonbury Tor were happily inescapable - we'd keep glancing back and seeing it at once, still commanding the landscape no matter how small. We finally left it shortly before camping at Old Down.
The next morning we caught the bus into Bath, to give us more time to walk round the city. After dropping our packs at the Youth Hostel (a lovely, friendly hilltop retreat, well worth the steep hike to get there), we rambled along the Bath Skyline Path to Prior Park Landscape Garden, built by Ralph Allen, the maker of modern Bath. In the early 1700s Allen made a fortune from improving the post office, then made a second one from quarrying and trading Bath's fabulous honey-coloured limestone. He spent much of this on a grand house and landscape garden overlooking the city.
The garden, occupying a dramatic cleft in the hill, was designed in the then-new romantic style - which according to the onsite National Trust blurbs erased the line between 'garden' and 'landscape' by carefully highlighting beautiful features natural to the British countryside, as opposed to cultivating elaborate French-style flowerbeds and topiary
We enjoyed the views down the steep garden valley and the graffiti of at least two centuries on the Palladian bridge. Then we walked down to explore Bath proper. It's a famously exquisite town, rising from the River Avon in a steep succession of terraces and crescents, with virtually everything faced in that sunny Bath stone that paid for Prior Park. It was Fi's first time there, and she fell in love with the rooflines and narrow streets. She knew she liked stone buildings, but had no idea how happy a whole city of the same gently radiant kind of stone and crisp, elegant Georgian architecture could make her; it's reinforced her bias in favour of dictatorial town planners
We were even happier the next morning, when we heard we had a new niece up in Leeds! We were already preparing to break our walk in Bath for a wedding in London on the 24th - now we quickly arranged a Leeds visit for the 26-27th.
And now we're on the bus back to Bath, where we look forward to meeting some more friends and immersing ourselves in the hot sulphurous water that made Bath famous in the first place.