A Cycling Trip Through England's Cotswold District

Day 5

Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Bath to Glastonbury

Once in Bath, the only way out of town is up. In less than a block we were once again lost in the intriguing maze of streets close to our B & B. After consulting our map, we eventually connected to the A367 and we started our climb. With the exception of a breather stop (once again, Tom's idea) we conquered the 3K climb. Following the busy A367 south, we connected with the B3115. The climb rewarded us with some great views of the surrounding valleys. But each valley descent was matched by another ascent. We left the B3115 and as in previous days rode into a maze of country roads and lanes.

Wonderful cycling along lanes with the high hedgerows and no traffic was a real treat for us today. We cycled through Paulton, Midsomer Norton and Chilcompton then found the B3139 that lead to Wells. A long coasting descent took us into Wells. After our lunch break we toured the Wells Cathedral.

Outside, we met with some other cyclists who were also headed to Glastonbury. A large group of 30 cyclists on tandem bicycles were out for a two-day trip culminating in a rendezvous in Glastonbury. This was our only time on our trip we met a group of cyclists.

We quickly left Wells for the short trip to Glastonbury, hoping to make it into town before all accommodation was taken up by the other cyclists. Sunny weather gave way to clouds and by the time we reached Glastonbury there were a few brief sprinkles. After booking into The Old Bakery Bed and Breakfast, located at 84A Bove Town, Kevin toured the Tor,while Tom remained behind at the B&B to nurse the beginning of a cold.

The view from the top of the Tor

Glastonbury Tor

Before the end of the last century the White Spring flowed from out of a cave within a small combe or vale at the foot of Glastonbury Tor. Its sister spring, Chalice Well or the Blood Spring, lies a few yards away on the other side of Well House Lane.

The grotto around the White Spring was originally overhung by trees and was full of shade and moisture-loving plants. It was a popular local picnic spot. Where the spring emerged, accretions of white calcite (calcium carbonate) built up on the exposed limestone and upon any twigs or branches which lay in the water, giving rise to the name. It is also known as the Tor Spring. Beside the White Spring an offshoot of Chalice Well water emerged and stained the stones in that part of the combe a dark red.

Unlike the Chalice Well the water of the White Spring has very little iron content and an irregular rate of flow. This can vary from 500 to 50,000 gallons per day. The source of the water is unknown but it must pass through the limestone beds which underlie this part of Somerset for a fair length of time before being pushed upward as a result of artesian pressure below Glastonbury Tor. Here it is diverted by the hard Midford Sandstone of the summit and flows laterally through the softer layers of blue limestone and marl to emerge at the White Spring. No doubt the water has created caverns and flowstone formation below the Tor, access to which may once have even been possible.

The tradition of the White Spring is that it forms the entrance to and the exit from the pagan Underworld, the Celtic Annwn. The colours and the creatures of Annwn are traditionally red and White. The entrance is guarded by Gwynn ap Nudd "white son of night" Lord of the Underworld and King of Faery. Glastonbury legend says Gwynn and his fairies were exorcised by St Collen in the 6th century. Having one artesian spring into which has leached a distinctly coloured mineral is unusual enough, but to have two quite differently coloured springs rising side by side means that not only in fiction but in fact Glastonbury Tor lies over a mysterious subterranean realm! The colours red and white have further symbolic resonance in the British mythological tradition.

From "The Red and White Springs: The Mysteries of Britain at Glastonbury" by NICHOLAS R. MANN.

After Kevin's return we ventured out to tour the town. Glastonbury appears to host a rather eclectic group of artisans and hippies. This was much different to the throngs of camera clad tourists that we had become accustomed to and identified with. A pub dinner with several beers preceded our return to the B&B.

Distance: 49.3 Km, Time: 2 hours, 52 minutes, Average Speed: 17.3 kph

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