I’ve been coming to Glastonbury (the town not the festival, as I’ve explained a lot in the past few weeks) every year or so since I started writing Beltane six years ago. It’s become a kind of spiritual second home and I love it for its quirkiness, its willingness to embrace the alternative and the sheer creative energy of the place. My sister said to me a while back, “Why do you keep going back? Don’t you get bored?” I told her that there’s a joy in revisiting the places I’ve come to love. And, as it’s been a very stressful and difficult six years, it’s relaxing to go back to somewhere I’m already familiar with.
When I was heading down the M1 for this visit, I expected it’d follow the same familiar path. I’d go to the Chalice Well and enjoy the peace in the beautiful garden, I’d walk up the Tor, I’d sit in the silence of Magdalen Chapel, wander around the bookshops and drink green tea in The Hundred Monkey’s Café (by far the best place for tea and cake in Glastonbury, in my opinion). Only it didn’t work out like that. I didn’t do most of those things. Instead I discovered new special places and I’ve now got a new favourite spot in Glastonbury.
The Avalon Orchard is perched on the slope of the Tor. If you come to the Tor by what I call the steep side (which is the side furthest from the centre of town) there’s a gate on the left of the path up the Tor, under an arch of greenery. There is another way from the other side of the Tor through the woods. I came that way but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve got stout boots and are prepared to meet wild campers doing their mid-morning ablutions (yes, he had his pants around his ankles – most embarrassing!)
Few people seem to find the orchard. It took a walk with a man who’s lived in Glastonbury all his life for me to discover it but it’s well worth a detour on a trip up and down the Tor.
Now you might be wondering, what’s so special about a few apple trees? They are lovely trees; old, gnarled, lichen covered. Some of them are bent and twisted, others fallen to make seats or benches of living wood. I arrived a few weeks too late for the blossom but I could see fruit forming, small bright green misshapen globes peeking out between the leaves. On a sunny day, it’s a gorgeous spot. There’s a lovely view across the Somerset Levels and it’s quiet. I was there on a very windy day when it was hard to stand even on the lower parts of the Tor but it was peaceful and sheltered in the orchard.
The National Trust take care of the orchard which is why there’s nice gates and carved name plaques but other than that it’s remarkably untouched. I’m told they don’t know who planted the orchard or when or what varieties of apples grow there. Glastonbury was once Avalon, the Isle of Apples and it’s lovely that there’s a reminder of that.
I’ve found it so difficult while life has been tough to do new things. It’s been much easier to cling to the old, even if it’s worn out and a bit tatty. I’d thought, after the very hard few months I’d been through that I was going to Glastonbury to relax into what I knew. Turns out I was wrong about that. I was ready to discover new places and to do new things and they were all, in different ways, as special as the beautiful Avalon Orchard.
If you’ve got a favourite place in Glastonbury or if you’ve recently discovered a wonderful new place then I’d love to hear about it. You can add a comment below, tweet me at @Alyswestyork or post on my Facebook page @alyswestwrites.