Entering the historic Chalice Well gardens I immediately feel a great peace come over me and know this is an appropriate starting point for my walk from Glastonbury to the Isle of Iona.
I’ve begun the day early with a hike to the top of the Tor that is the most prominent landmark for many miles around, allowing myself quiet time for reflection on the journey ahead while enjoying panoramic views over the picturesque market town of Glastonbury and patchwork quilt of farmlands stretching in every direction. This is rural England at its most picturesque.
On a visit to the Tor the previous evening I was engulfed by a procession of sometimes noisy tourists but my timing is perfect today and I have it all to myself until the arrival of the first dog walkers.
I’d love to have been as early at Chalice Well but any fears about noisy crowds are dispelled when the gates open at 10am. There are only a handful of us and all are like-minded seekers who respect the need for quiet introspection and meditation.
Glastonbury is steeped in myths and legends and the Well and surrounding gardens have been regarded as a sacred site and a doorway to the mysterious and the Divine since ancient times. Here we tread in the footsteps of pilgrims from centuries long past, seeking the same healing and restoration that Nature is always so generous with.
Iron ore deposits in the water tinge them red, lending credibility to the idea that they represent the blood of Christ. According to one popular legend Chalice Well first appeared miraculously when Joseph of Arimathea buried or washed the cup used at the last supper.
For many pilgrims the waters are an embodiment of the essence of life with the continuous flow of the Well seen as a direct manifestation of abundance and unbounded life force.
Visitors are invited to bathe in King Arthur’s healing pool and I, like others, remove my shoes and savour the caress of the cool waters. Most pilgrims choose to fill their water bottles upstream at the Lion’s Head fountain, offering silent prayers or rituals appropriate to their individual spiritual paths.
The aura of peace is pervasive and immensely soothing, although occasionally traffic noises intrude and once a helicopter circles overhead. King Arthur and his lovely Queen Guinevere never had to contend with that!
Each day at noon, and again at 3pm, all are encouraged to enjoy a minute’s silence, honouring a practice that became famous during the Second World War when the BBC encouraged the nation to share silent moments together nightly at exactly 9pm.
Surprisingly I’m alone on a bench alongside the Well when an old school bell sounds the start of the minute and I pray for an auspicious outcome for my pilgrimage as well as an easing of the pain in my right hip that has plagued me since a fall on slippery rocks a few days earlier.
Despite a determination to ruthlessly reduce the weight in my heavy pack, which now includes a compact computer to facilitate my compulsive urge to write, I fill a bottle with water from the spring. I vow to sprinkle some of the contents on arrival at Iona, saving the last drops for the Sanctuary at Findhorn.
I decide it’s time and re-read a document that all local residents are encouraged to ponder, give one last loving look over the gardens, shrug on my backpack and start walking…
The Glastonbury Moment
Spirit of All Life, Mother and Father of us all, look with loving kindness on this community of Glastonbury and Avalon.
Bless all beings here with love, compassion and growing consciousness.
Help us to be good neighbours as we build a safe, creative and prosperous town in which all children are cared for and all people supported in their growth and fulfillment.
Inspire us to care for our sacred landscape so as to benefit the natural world and our children’s children for generations to come.
Help us to be mindful and caring towards our many visitors and pilgrims, honouring their diverse paths and faiths, as we honour and celebrate the diversity of belief among ourselves.
We pray for peace and justice at home and all across the world.
Blessed be. Amen. Om.