November was sprinkled with notable walks around the lanes of Glastonbury. I made every attempt to enjoy a walk amidst the late autumn show of bright orange oaks, ignited beech trees, and the last displays of field maple, all splashing the coombes and hollows with reflective puddles of colour. These last legs of autumn are emphasised by winter’s encroaching bleakness – trimmed hedges, ploughed fields and the skeletons of those trees already disattired.
A number of stand out walks were committed during the first days of December. The landscape became shrouded in a thick unmoving fog for three days straight. Walking in the mist is disorientating and it’s striking what a lack of visibility can do to one’s perception. Without the aid of the sun and horizons, we are immersed in a static day that feels like one long unchanging moment until suddenly the sun sets behind the curtain and darkness falls abruptly.
Walking in the lanes in these conditions is a wholly surreal experience. Where there should be recognisable landscapes and horizons there is only white and where grand hills and trees rise, there is again, only white! I walk in a giant bubble able to see no more than 50 metres in each direction. My eyes continually adjust to the lack of depth in the scenery and my mind is made uneasy with the lack of ability to map out the path in front of it, constantly failing to find a point of reference in order to gain a sense of direction or distance.
For most, the fog may be a hindrance but for many of the souls wandering the lanes at this time, it’s a maker of magic. We encounter scenes straight out of legends, fleeting visions of mystical castles in the sky. We are immersed in a continually transforming environment where, in one moment, blue skies are subtly visible and the tor appears as a ghostly apparition, only half there, if that.
In the next moment, the mound disappears entirely and we are suspended up in a storm cloud, tied to the mist, the sun visible as a white moonlike disc appearing briefly through the layers of fog that tumble up and over the mound – with a simple 180 degree turn, a fogbow is visible, looking like the flighted wake of a bounding unicorn.
Up above the fog, a completely different day is happening – so far removed from what is below as to make one gawp and then beam in utter awe of it. On the second day of fog cover I headed out for a walk at around sunset, ready to experience nothing but a misty walk. As I traipsed the lanes something about the light coming through the fog led me to believe that if I climbed the Tor I would be able to rise through the mist and watch the sun set.
As I started to climb the light became stronger, until, at about three quarters of the way up I encountered the threshold – the point where the fog stops and one is born into a bright, warm, clear day. Standing on the cusp for a few moments I am struck by the sheer beauty of this experience, like standing on the edge of awake and looking down into the shrouded abyss, then heading up onto the shiny crowned mound to be born into a tor-top dream.
Up here, on this little hump of island paradise rising from the sea of fog, is the only bubble of clarity for miles around. Up here all is spacious yet we feel enclosed – a feeling of simultaneous expansiveness and restriction. All is bright gold and blue, touched only by the wisps of fluffy aureate cloud tops. St Michael’s tower stands alone, isolated, its presence all the more impactful for being the only man made object visible at all, exhibited on a grassy plinth and under spotlight, the closest experience one can have to reaching heaven’s gate while still being alive.
On this day, perhaps 15 people were present to watch the sunset: a flautist playing beautifully and adding to the ethereal atmosphere, a group of 6 or so tourists who couldn’t take enough photos, and a few other waifs and strays wandering around in amazement. I walked my usual circles around the tower, taking in each direction and recognising an irremovable smile had engulfed my face. Such an elated feeling of joy swept over me – towards the east was the half moon, towards the south west, coming into alignment with the dragon path was the setting sun – towards the west and north, all was white, then to the north east – the shadow of the Tor laid on top of the sea of mist, stretching all the way to Shepton mallet!
To top it all, as if this lucky few weren’t already draped in layers of beauty upon beauty, it was time for the starlings to murmur. Large groups hovered through the air, appearing like one colossal organism undulating and shapeshifting slowly as they swam through the ocean of sky. It is experiences like these that truly stoke my fire. That we find ourselves in such close proximity to mother earth’s magic is not to be taken for granted and to be immersed in it regularly is for sure one of the main reasons I have remained sane and happy in Glastonbury.
Until next time, we walk to the trees x
This edition marks the culmination of three years of writing a monthly newsletter. Driven by the cycles of the moon, each edition is conceptualised on the new moon for release on the full moon and revolves around my personal walking adventure in Glastonbury and further afield.
This is the first time I have written on the same subject over such a prolonged period. This activity has provided me with a steady creative outlet through tumultuous times and I hope it has provided some entertainment during that time, to those of you who have tuned in. Thank you for your ongoing support.
The full collection of writing started in Dec 2020 comprises 37 editions (2020 had 3 full moons), some with multiple parts, making for over 40 pages of writing – you can read all articles free at this link: tothetrees.co.uk/category/newsletter/ – and don’t forget you can support these creative efforts by leaving a donation at https://ko-fi.com/mattwitt.
A Visual Diary – Nov / Dec 2022
Winter Tree Walks
Public Tree Walks, Glastonbury – By Donation
Sun 18th Dec – Winter Solstice Tree Walk, Glastonbury – 11am – 1pm
FB Event: https://fb.me/e/2bG015w7E
Abbey Tree Walk & Talk – Autumn
Note: Abbey Entry fee is not included
A gentle walk with tree ident and poetry.
Sat 10th Dec – 11am – 12.30pm – £10pp
FB Event: https://fb.me/e/6rUnA9BK5
Booking: 07548 936 081
Walks for individuals and groups, for birthdays, weddings, and as an add on to your retreat, at a date and time to suit you.
Call Matt to book: 07548 936 081
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