A photo tour of Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey was founded in the 7th century and expanded by St. Dunstan, the Abbot of Glastonbury in the 10th century and by 1086, it was the richest monastery in England. Of special interest is the legend connecting the site of the abbey to the burial place of King Arthur as well as Joseph of Arimathea. As I had been fascinated by the legend, my sister decided to make a stop at the abbey on our way back from Wells.

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According to the exhibition at the abbey museum, there was an old church made of mud and wood on the site, the origin of which is not clear but there are various legends surrounding it. However, the fire of 1184 destroyed any traces of this old church and the Lady chapel was consecrated on its site in 1186.

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When the medieval St. Joseph’s crypt was constructed under the Lady chapel, it became a popular destination for pilgrims. The crypt was rededicated in 2015 by the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

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On the side of Lady chapel is a marker of a grave. While there are many stories connected to this grave, a popular story that is mentioned on the abbey’s website is that monks needing to raise funds to rebuild the abbey after the fire, dug up this grave in 1191 searching for the bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.

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They were then re-buried in a black marble tomb in the then newly constructed abbey church in 1278.

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The ruins of the Great church, though not having survived to the extent of Lady chapel, are also quite majestic.

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The best preserved section of the abbey is the Abbot’s kitchen, which was built in the 1300s, and was used to provide meals for the abbot and his guests.

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Facing the kitchen was the ruins of the refectory, marked as the monastic ruins on the abbey map.

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The abbey grounds cover 36 acres of parkland. I was not up to walking around the entire parkland but I did stop and pause by some lovely benches to rest and observe the ruins.

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Another site of interest to the visitor to Glastonbury would be the Glastonbury Tor. Having walked a lot that day, my sister was concerned that I would find it too much to climb and with the clouds opening up as I finished my visit to the abbey, we decided to turn away with a brief glimpse of the Tor, from a distance.

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Disclaimer: The Bath Tourism Office kindly gave me a complimentary media pass to Bath and regional attractions, during my November 2016 visit to south west England, for the purpose of this post. This pass allowed me free entry to Glastonbury Abbey. All opinions are my own and I only recommend experiences I have enjoyed.

[Linked this post to The Weekly Postcard and Weekend Travel Inspiration]

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Wandering along Maunsel Lock

If you are visiting Taunton in Somerset county, a nearby place to visit on a sunny day would be the Maunsel Lock. After my visit to the Taunton castle museum, my sister and I decided to visit the Maunsel Lock area and walk along the canal path. There is a car park near the lock and it is a great place to start one’s walk along the Bridgwater and Taunton canal.

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In its heydays, the lock was busy with boats carrying trade from and to the Bridgwater docks.

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The canal is recommended for canoeing enthusiasts. The British Canoeing organization, UK’s national governing body for paddle sports, considers the Bridgwater and Taunton canal route UK’s best kept canoeing secret and recommends an 8 mile trail that starts and finishes at Maunsel lock.

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Those who want to walk a specific trail can have fun trying out the Somerset Space Walk, which opened in 1997. The Space walk is a sculpture trail model of the solar system, using the towpath of the Taunton and Bridgwater canal, with the walk  starting at the sun model at the Maunsel lock. My sister and I simply chose to go for a short walk along the Maunsel lock area, stretching our legs after being indoors at the museum all morning.

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The Bridgwater and Taunton canal opened in 1827 and links River Tone to River Parrett. A fascinating aspect of the canal is that the locals have set up a volunteer wardens scheme to look after their canal and my walk along a key part of it showed me the well maintained and peaceful towpath.

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While the canal is recommended for wild life such as kingfishers and dragonflies, I spotted a couple of swans fishing for their food.

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I enjoyed the relaxing walk along the quiet towpath, taking in the fresh country air, despite its proximity to the bustling town of Taunton.

Have you explored some of UK’s 2000 miles of canal network? 

Do check out Untold Morsel’s exploration of the London canals and A family day out’s experience of the highest aqueduct in the UK, for more inspiring canal trails.

[I am linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday and Faraway Files #16]
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Suitcases and Sandcastles

Special Six: Taunton Museum Highlights

During my recent holiday in England, I visited the Museum of Somerset with my sister. The museum, which is located within the 12th century Taunton castle, had a lovely collection of exhibits about life in the Somerset region from prehistoric to present day.

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The castle, designated as an ancient monument, has an interesting history from its 12th century beginnings to its decline in the 16th century, its role in the siege of Taunton in 1644/45 and as the site of the hangings of 144 of Monmouth’s supporters, following the Monmouth rebellion in 1685.

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View from an older section of the castle

The reconstructed castle has several interesting galleries on display. While I enjoyed the different sections in the museum, the following six are the exhibits that I enjoyed most.

(1) The tree of Somerset

The sculpture greets you as you enter the ground floor gallery of the museum. The 175 year old Somerset oak tree on Quantock hills was originally felled to be made into beams. However, it was created into an artwork by Simon O’Rourke, reflecting some of the stories and objects to be found at the Museum of Somerset.

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(2) Plesiosaur fossil

The Plesiosaur fossil is displayed in the Great Hall of the castle museum. Discovered by a Somerset fisherman, this fossil of a Plesiosaur was the first complete skeleton to be found in Britain for more than a century. The marine reptile thrived during the Jurassic period but became extinct about 66 million years ago.

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(3) The Low Ham Mosaic

The floor mosaic was found in the bath block of a 4th century Low Ham Roman villa. The mosaic floor, which tells the story of Vigil’s Dido and Aeneas, is considered to be one of the most famous objects surviving Roman Britain.

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(4) Frome Hoard

The Frome hoard was discovered in 2010 and is the largest hoard of coins ever found in a single container in Britain. The 160 Kg hoard is thought to have been buried in the 3rd century at Witham friary near Frome.

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(5) The Shapwick Canoe:

The canoe was made from an oak tree trunk felled in 350 BC and was found in 1906, preserved in peat.

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(6) Wild Art: Nature Re-Imagined, an exhibition by the Neal brothers

During my visit to the museum, there was a lovely exhibition of photography, sculpture and paintings by the Neal brothers. The brothers’ art career stemmed from their inspiring childhood explorations of the Somerset countryside.

There is much to discover about the history of the region, at the Museum of Somerset.

Have you visited Taunton and its castle museum? What is your favourite exhibit, from your own visit, or from my special six?

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[I am linking this post to City Tripping #62]

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