Equinox Walk – To The Trees Edition #16
I stepped out reluctantly, bleary eyed after a few weeks of inconsistent walking routines, feeling like a stranger in a new land of Spring.
My Equinox walk was to lay a circular trail of intention around the large hill, to offer thanks for the arrival of Spring and to set myself on the steadfast bearing for the coming months, a firm footed forward motion towards the Solstice.
This particular route takes an elliptical orbit, swinging out over Holywell lane to its farthest point from the Tor at the Wicks, before cutting back in to hug the mound at its closest point, entering onto Tor ground via Ashwell lane. The route would also allow me to visit old friends, some of whom I have not seen for a good six months.
In Glastonbury, one is never far away from the end of town, in any direction, a 10 minute walk will almost suffice to see you out of built surrounds and stood before an expansive scenery. Sometimes it feels like walking to the seashore, or approaching the edge of a grand stage. Lower Wick, is one such place, slightly off my regular walking route about a mile past where the town ends.
I approached Stone Down Lane from the track upon which Gog and Magog dwell, I was attracted by what looked like a tree in leaf, it wasn’t until I reached within a few metres of the tree that I could see that it’s “leaves” were in fact last year’s ash keys, now sparsely populated with only a few hanging on to each bunch, a mirage accentuate by a second tree with more keys, sitting just behind it. It’s not the first time i have been fooled in this way by an ash tree.
I placed myself between the trees and immediately felt like I was being watched, a non physical tugging, as if my attention was being pulled toward something. As I stood between these two hedgerow ash trees, a gust of wind blew through where no wind had been present, and after which, no wind was present once again. I stopped with my eyes closed, to absorb the moment, before two large crows cackled in the branches above my head. As one flew off, I started to move on slowly down the lane, gently considering my slight wariness of this mysterious little digression.
The group of houses at Lower Wick is picturesque, sitting at the foot of the hills of Avalon, the last post before leaving Glastonbury and heading Eastward towards Pilton and further on to Avebury. Marking the end of Stone Down Lane and driveway of the Abbot’s Palace, stands a trinity of beauties, two of them weeping. An impressive walnut, a weeping willow, and a weeping ash.
The weeping Ash – Fraxinus Excelsior ‘pendula’, accentuate the extension of their branches downward, I have come to name them, endearingly, “the tumbling ash”. There are many in and around Glastonbury and neighbouring towns, planted ornamentally in gardens.
Lower Wick consists of a group of buildings dating back to the 1400’s. It’s said that Lower Wick farmhouse (below) building may have been a stopping place for pilgrims, like a slipper house. While the nearby Norwood Park, a haunt of the monks of Glastonbury abbey, a place where they would “indulge in less restrained antics”. The largest building (image right) has a plaque that announces it as: “The Palace of Abbot John De Selwood, 1457, restored 1959.”
The name Wick is used commonly in place names and has a selection of possible derivations: a farm, an area of artisanal activity, a fortified place, or if from roman derivation, simply “place”. I have also heard it described as “a part of the town located just out of town”, though I can’t find the source, it would be well applied in this case.
I love placing myself back through the ages, removing the tarmac and cars, and situating my attention in such a way that I become a character in the landscape of those times. I imagine pilgrims from the East entering via this route, and if the legends are true, heading towards the grand oak avenue that led towards the Tor. It’s a pleasant daydream to indulge while walking around these places.
Saying my silent thank yous, I move on.
Heading back towards Glastonbury, via Stone Down, one is treated to a mighty view of the winding lane arched by a large old oak tree (image above). St Michael’s tower is poking out just over the top of the last hill on the left, another new Tor view made possible by winter’s hedge cutting and a lack of foliage.
Halfway up the lane is a public footpath leading into a lush green pasture, bullseyed by a grand oak. I have come to know it as the “Lone Leaning Oak”, but I now have it on good word that the owner of this land calls it the “Avalon Oak”, which I am very happy to adopt.
Stopping for a hug, before heading across the field, following an old hedge line past the elder and hawthorn and the mighty ash stool, I become drawn to the bright white dot floating on the landscape in front of me. A mature blackthorn in full and utterly frenzied bloom, not a space left on the branch and even at risk of toppling under the weight of blossom.
Nearby stood an interestingly silhouetted tree, a large ash with rather bulbous tips to its end branches, the sure signs of the first substantial release of male ash flowers. The noble ash atop the hill also has the tell tale swollen branch tips and can be seen from the Tor, towards the East.
On the way back into town, I took my time to search for the female flower of the hazel. I have not seen many this year, perhaps because of the cold, or maybe because I haven’t been looking hard enough. On this Equinox day, with its emerging warmth, I found a number of them on Gypsy lane.
Female hazel flowers sport the brightest pink in the countryside, tiny bright neon points of light, pinker than pink can be, each little wisp is a flower capable of producing a hazelnut when pollinated by a nearby male hazel catkin.
After months of short trips and shower dodging, the slight warmth of the Equinox sun burning through the clouds allowed me to saunter and explore, at one point I even took off my scarf!
Despite my initial resistance, it felt really good to get out for a long walk and take my time about it. The purposeful movement of this walk and rhythmical passing of ground under foot not only served to moved me through the countryside, but also encouraged stuck thoughts to move through my mind. The building tension in the buds of the trees was palpably relatable, it energised my body and lifted my spirits.
For me, it goes without saying that movement of the body (as in exercise) seems to encourage movement in all areas of life, combine that with connection to the earth, and observation of nature and you have quite a powerful tool for relaxation, motivation and inspiration, all combined into one.
I am looking forward to keeping an eye on the order of Spring here in Glastonbury and I can’t wait to see you in the lanes, fields and woods in the near future.
Bring the outside in!
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