“Someplace where there isn’t any trouble… Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?
There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. It’s far, far away…
Behind the moon, beyond the rain
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.”
Glastonbury is a place “over the rainbow” for many reasons.
First of all, you can’t get there by boat or train. I’m sure driving there on your own is all right, but I arrived in the dead of night by bus, which is rather like getting on a roller-coaster and not knowing the destination. We wound through the hills of Somerset at what felt like a hundred miles an hour, often seeing a stone wall set into the bank of a curve as it leapt into our headlights or another vehicle careening at us. But I’ve come to learn that all British drivers are born with an uncanny instinct that tells them exactly how much room they have and by this alone we made it safe and sound to the High Street of Glastonbury.
Unfortunately it was still eleven o’clock and dark as could be with my B&B still a mile away.
But I’d said a prayer over my solo journey and this dark night in particular, and the Lord was looking out for me, because as I walked down the High Street, I came to the only open establishment in the town, an Indian restaurant. The owner allowed me to use the phone to call my B&B and also told the taxi driver, who just happened to be eating inside, that I needed a ride. By midnight, I was checked in and settled into my room for the next two days.
The next morning I was up bright and early for my hike up the Tor.
I suppose I should explain a bit about the Tor and what it was that brought me to Glastonbury in the first place.
It’s the land that I heard of once in a lullaby. Well, not quite a lullaby, but a storybook of sorts.
I’ve always been enchanted with the stories of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, and I’ll never forget the moment I opened the coffee table book of Arthurian landscapes and saw the image of a tower rising on an isolated green hill through pink and white mists. It was captioned: The Isle of Avalon, but the information on the surrounding pages informed me that this was, in actuality, Glastonbury Tor, a real place that could be visited in the southwest of England.
From that day forward it was my goal to get there, to visit that mystical, magical mountain and stand on the accumulation of history and legend.
The more I learned about the region as I grew older, the more my appetite was whetted.
Glastonbury Abbey, located in town at the foot of the Tor, was a major centre for Christianity in the region, and there is even speculation that the area may have been the first in that part of the country to be converted. I don’t necessarily go in for the whole Joseph of Arimathea or Holy Grail theories connected with the area, but they are interesting in so much as they convey people’s faith and belief, especially going back so far historically.
From my B&B, I was able to cross the street, then climb up the Tor using a combination of foot paths and little holds carved out by sheep hooves.
It’s not an incredibly high hill or difficult climb, but the valley below is so low and widespread that one can see for miles in all directions. At one point in its history, it would have been a floodplain for the River Avon, leaving the Tor adrift in a shallow inland sea. The fact that only a single tower remains from the St. Michael’s monastery adds to both the grandeur and mystique of the locality.
After taking a few pictures, I sat on the grass by a few grazing sheep and watched the rain clouds roll across the landscape.
A few tears rolled down my cheeks as I realised I was sitting in the place of my dreams.