It wasn't actually the whole day, so the pictures are a bit eclectic. Apologies for the geography lessons for those who know this stuff already.
I spent the morning at the accountants, discussing how much more tax I should pay this year. Having missed breakfast to drive down and lunch discussing the fatal state of my "investments" at the moment, I decided I needed tea in Bath, a well-known watering-hole (perhaps even the origin of the phrase) of the Georgians. Yes, this could be getting a bit confusing.
Returning from the accountants in Taunton (a place well-known only for the fact that we used to live just outside there before we became a mobile family) I decided to go cross-country, forgetting of course that Somerset has lots of picturesque villages and no short cuts in the direction of Bath.
Passing through Glastonbury (one week too late for the famous mud-bash otherwise known as the music festival**) I remembered I had never been up Glastonbury Tor***, the other claim to fame for Glastonbury. Then looking at the weather, I decided a photo would do. So here it is, including the weather.
I didn't think much of my picture until I saw the one on the website here, which is little better. Anyway despite this looking like some ancient barrow or a lump of spoil from motorway construction, it is in fact a holy hill, or alternatively the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Fairies. According to this website "climbing it brings uplift, clarity and deep shifts". On the top there is a small tower.
In early-medieval times there was a small monks' retreat on top of the Tor, founded probably in the time of St Patrick in the mid-400s. This was followed in the early 1100s by a chapel, St Michael de Torre. This was destroyed in a powerful earthquake in 1275 and rebuilt in the early 1300s. The tower is all that remains today.
Earthquake? Obviously not built as well as the churches in Georgia which have survived earthquakes since the same period. In fact there aren't many churches standing at all in Britain from that period. Building standards must have been worse or earthquakes more frequent.
This wasn't the myth I was expecting, but it seems that the full range of myths are associated with the Tor:
It has been called a magic mountain, a faeries' glass hill, a spiral castle, a Grail castle, the Land of the Dead, Hades, a Druid initiation centre, an Arthurian hill-fort, a magnetic power-point, a crossroads of leys, a centre for Goddess fertility rituals and celebrations, a converging point for UFOs.
So take your pick. I only knew about the Arthurian hill-fort. However it is an impressive sight on a good day as this better photo from the website shows:
As Glastonbury is sited just north of the Somerset Levels, a very flat area, marginally above sea level, the Tor can been seen a long way away. Finally a view of what's on top, from the Somerset Tourist Website.
And now for the new.
Losing my way completely navigating round the bottom of the Tor, I spotted this out of the corner of my eye.
Since Somerset is home to Hinckley Point Nuclear Power Station and stands to benefit from the Severn Barrage if they ever get it going, I hadn't expected to see an isolated wind turbine in somebody's field. Still there it was, and even turning.
I suppose a note is in order about the Severn Barrage. The Severn (near Bristol) is the biggest river estuary in Britain and so has become the focus of attempts to generate electricity from waves.
Wave power is possible because the estuary has the second largest tidal range in the world. During the highest tides, the rising water is funnelled up the estuary into a wave (2m high) called the Severn Bore, that travels rapidly upstream against the river current.
Proposals were first made in 1925 for a barrage generating electricity and have been made continuously since then, with the latest investigation started in 2007. It's interesting to note that the cost of the investigation now would probably have built the whole thing in 1925. The cost always comes out too high, and the environmental effects get more complex every time they are considered. Nevertheless, as someone on Wikipedia points out, in the current version, it could replace three nuclear power stations, with renewable energy, as well as requiring just as much concrete as the nuclear stations, so that the construction companies stand to gain just as much work. As everyone knows they are the biggest lobby for nuclear power plants.
This post is about as rambling as my actual route to Bath. More in Part II.
* This is a trip to the South West of England, mainly in the County of Somerset.
** The only reason I know this is that Bee decided that mud was not for her and has gone to Roskilde Festival this weekend, with a friend. We had dinner with the friend's parents who asked all sorts of questions as to what happened at this festival, perhaps hoping to get more information from Bee, who was economic with the truth in front of two sets of parents. The line seemed to be that there was definitely no mud and a lot of culture, including swimming and the bands were better. And being Denmark there would be beer. I'm a rather hands-off parent, being also a long-distance parent these days, and we all know Denmark well, so nothing special about a trip there, for me at least. I've even know where Roskilde is, since it is also the home of the Risoe National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, who paid my salary in Lithuania for a couple of years.
Update here: for the Roskilde experience see Bee's blog posts. Start here
***A tor is a rock outcrop formed by weathering, usually found on or near the summit of a hill. Tor seems to be a Cornish word. Cornish is a Celtic (Brythonic to be precise) language, currently with 300 speakers, spoken in Cornwall (as in Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall). That makes Polish a more common language spoken in the UK with 600,000 speakers.