Today’s route was slated to take us back through northern
We followed the narrow winding roads back through Cornwall and I was reminded of a comment I read somewhere expressing frustration about the hedges being so high here. All we ever seemed to see were masses of tangled green shrubs, with glimpses of rolling hills (dotted with sheep, of course) flashing by through the occasional break in the hedge. Of course John’s eyes were always on the road, anticipating the next car to come speeding around the bend. English drivers don’t seem to expect an oversized German sedan to be coming at them and they often barely give us enough room to squeeze by. (I’m laughing as I write this since an E-Class is considered a mid-size sedan in the
We soon hooked up with the welcoming broad swath of the M5 motorway and made good time through the rolling countryside to
We decided to get something for lunch first since it was almost 1:00. The town – at least what we could see of it – looked like your normal sort of college hangout, despite Glastonbury being a major draw for druids, hippies, and various other New Agers attracted to its mystical past. We walked down the street a ways (figuring it was probably a good idea to put a little distance between us and the tour bus throngs descending on the Abbey) and ducked into a cozy pub with red velour seats and red curtains and a very frazzled bleached-blonde barmaid. We ordered a couple of toasted baguette sandwiches and sodas. While we waited for our lunch to arrive, we watched with mild amusement as the barmaid told some teenagers of uncertain origin to turn down the music that they were blasting on their cell phones. They pretended not to understand English but did what she asked and left soon after. We gobbled down our sandwiches and then set off on our jaunt to Glastonbury Tor.
We walked about a mile through town, past a park, and then along a trail through a cow pasture to the base of the Tor. It sprinkled on and off but fortunately never turned into a serious downpour. The dirt path angled steeply upwards and we could see the massive dark tower looming on the hill above us (photo, above). When we arrived at the top we had the place completely to ourselves, although there was plenty of evidence of past visitors of the bovine variety – evidence splattered rather unceremoniously all over the base of the tower. The striking square edifice is all that remains of St. Michael’s Church, which collapsed in1271 (photo, right). From the open archways at the base of the tower we had magnificent views of the surrounding countryside, out across the red-brick houses of
We took our pictures and then hiked back down the hill in a light rain. We peeked in the entrance to Glastonbury Abbey but didn’t have time for a visit (it would have cost £18) which was too bad, because the ruins looked very atmospheric in the rain. (The abbey was completed in 1524 but destroyed in 1539 when Henry VIII called for the dissolution of the monasteries.) We looked around the gift shop instead and bought a fridge magnet with the Wilkinson family crest (Wilkinson being John’s grandmother’s maiden name).
Then it was back in the car, a quick stop for gas, and onwards to
We parked in front of a rambling white stone farmhouse (photo, right), where we were greeted by a scruffy but friendly Border Collie. As we rooted through our stuff in the trunk, a grizzled man in mud-covered work clothes came out of a nearby barn carrying a bucket. He apologized for his appearance, saying he was dealing with a difficult birth (a cow, I assume, from the heart-rending lowing coming from the barn), and asked if we wouldn’t mind showing ourselves to our room. He gave us directions through the house and there was also a note from his wife for us on the door. Our room was on the first floor at the far end of the house, through two small parlors filled with frilly antiques. We were surprised to open the door and find twin beds on opposite sides of the room (I had simply requested a double), with a sink in one corner and a small but serviceable bathroom with shower. In one of the parlors there was a guestbook, which I peeked at; no American guests had signed it since last September. After we’d settled in, I decided to take a little walk before dinner. As soon as I started down the road, my friend the Border Collie jumped up and led the way. I got the feeling he had done this before. I took a few pictures of the scenery and then returned to the house. On my way inside I met an elderly lady who was seated at the desk in one of the parlors. She told me she was here with two friends on a walking holiday (apparently a very popular pastime for Brits). We chatted for a bit about the weather, as there has been some serious flooding elsewhere in
Dinner was served promptly at 7:00 p.m. We were seated at a table in front of the stone fireplace, which was large enough for five people to stand up inside of it (photo, right). The woman from the parlor was there with her friends, along with another older couple. Dinner was efficiently served by a young woman dressed in a prim black skirt and white apron. It was a rather interesting meal. First we had a piece of honeydew melon garnished with an orange slice and a strawberry. The main course consisted of a platter of cold ham, accompanied by individual dishes of potatoes, rice and peas, pickled beets, halved hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise, an iceburg lettuce salad, and bread and butter. The potatoes were the only thing served warm. In some ways it reminded me of the simple dinners we would eat on the farm in
The best part of dinner was dessert – a fabulous raspberry custard topped with a thick layer of the richest cream I’ve ever tasted – homemade, I reckon. We finished with tea and coffee and then took a nice late-evening stroll down the lane. We stopped to watch a couple of horses grazing in a pasture (photo, right), but they wouldn’t come very close – apparently they didn’t smell any apples or carrots on us. We went on down the road until we reached a herd of plaintively bleating sheep, several of whom were sticking their heads through the fence to munch on the tender leaves of the hedge (you know what they say – the grass is always greener…). Finally we turned around and headed back to the farmhouse, marveling at this little idyllic corner of the world that we had discovered in central