Arthur. His name still rings out clear and true across the Somerset Levels, like the sound effect slide of a sword from a stone. A noble and kind king, he ruled Wales, Cornwall, Somerset, North Cadbury, the whole of England or somewhere, anyway, for a pretty long time, way back when dragons roamed the woods and there weren’t any motorways.
The leader of a non-historical group of holy knights, Arthur’s story combines the very best of French courtly love traditions with a table. He lived, he died, he was shipped over the inland sea to the Isle of Avalon in all its misty wonderment where he waits until he can return.
Even today, Arthur can be found, still waiting, sat on a Glastonbury high street bench with a can of strong lager, telling people that he’s King Arthur, trying to drown out the sound of the other bloke who’s insisting that no, he is in fact the once and future king. This happens a lot in Glastonbury.
Alongside Arthur nestles the legend of the Grail/Chalice, the cup that Jesus drunk from at the Last Supper and that Joseph of Arimathea buried around Glastonbury for reasons known only to himself.
It was at last properly re-discovered nearly two thousand years later by Wellesby Tudor Pole, a psychic grain merchant from Bristol, using three pure hearted women (his sister and some mates) to track its location. It’s possible that all three women were reincarnations of Sir Galahad, as they were able to clearly follow Tudor Pole’s vision and be guided to a ditch in Glastonbury. Sure enough, there was the Chalice.
This most sacred and magical of objects is now kept safe in a room at the Chalice Well Gardens* and may be viewed, sat with, or thrown like a Frisbee to a mate, but only by appointment.
The medieval Italian millefiori style blue glass bowl shows traces of time travel as well as the miraculous imprint of Jesus’ lips. There are also two sets of fingerprints, melted into the glass. We now know these to belong to Jesus and His father, the Almighty Jehovah. Archaeologists believe that after Jesus had begged for God to take away his cup, God actually tried, before realising Jesus was being metaphorical.
Chalice Well Gardens, Glastonbury’s first alternative theme park, is tucked into a four acre site just beneath the Tor. It opened its doors to the public in 1959 and now, fifty years on, has some of the most beautiful and uniquely designed gardens in the country. It’s an incredibly nice place to visit, spit out the rusty water, marvel at the peculiar curvy concrete ponds and have a picnic.
*Tudor Pole had had the Chalice knocking around for fifty years by the time he got around to organising the purchase of the well and four acres of land, but with the Chalice, well and gardens together at last, the Chalice Well Gardens’ name finally made glorious sense.