Tag Archives: gift shop

Coppicing on north face of Glastonbury Tor may finally lay Forest Of The Ultrabeast myth to rest

It must be something to do with geological features in the United Kingdom that so many harbour ancient myths about terrifying creatures that lurk in darkness – take for example the Loch Ness Monster and the Wookey Hole Gerbil.

Glastonbury Tor postcard

1755 postcard from Glastonbury perpetuating the myth of The Ultrabeast

Visitors to Glastonbury Tor have long avoided the northern slopes, covered in ancient woodland, and known locally as The Forest Of The Ultrabeast – a name censored for many years from the guidebooks provided by the Glastonbury Tourist Information Centre.

Folklore has it that since mediaeval times a dangerous creature much like Bigfoot (albeit with feet sized more appropriately for the local environment) has lurked in this deeply wooded area. It was only when electric street lighting was introduced in Glastonbury in the 1960’s that a night-time curfew was finally lifted. But mention of the Ultrabeast still strikes fear into nervous local residents.

We talked to Uther Henge, the Chief Mystical Consultant for the National Trust stationed permanently at the gift shop at Glastonbury Tor who has been tasked with supervising the logging operation; “Coppicing is a traditional system of woodland management that takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level. What we hope is that by lowering the height of these ancient trees the Ultrabeast, if he exists, will be deprived of his natural cover. The other great benefit is that we’re now able to clear the way for the A361 bypass that will ease congestion in the middle of Glastonbury.”

Titania Bonham-Smythe on Radio 4 You & Yours

A palpable sense of excitement was buzzing in the air today as staff at the gift shop at Glastonbury Tor listened to You & Yours on Radio 4.

Chief Gatekeeper Titania Bonham-Smythe had sent an email regarding a recent unsuccessful book purchase on Amazon – known as Spamazon – and we are pleased to say that it was read out by Winifred Robinson.

Download the 38 second MP3 or listen to the full 41 minute You & Yours programme on the BBC website.

Wombles banned from Glastonbury Tor

The sort of violent confrontation between a drug-fuelled Womble and a Somerset Strangler that authorities are trying to avoidConcern has been mounting over The Wombles’ forthcoming appearance at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival.

But it’s not just Michael Eavis worrying about the weird juxtaposition of Remember You’re A Womble blasting out to festival goers more atuned to Beyoncé and U2.

Following the recent EU warning issued to the French government about their flagrant disregard for wild Alsace hamsters, officials have defiantly stepped in to protect the wild hamsters that roam over Glastonbury Tor – known locally as Somerset Stranglers – they are banning supergroup The Wombles entry to this ancient mountain.

Uther Henge, the chief mystical consultant for the National Trust stationed permanently at their gift shop at Glastonbury Tor offered an explanation:

“The ecosystem on Glastonbury Tor is very delicate.  For hundreds of years these delightful but vicious wild hamsters have made their burrows on Glastonbury Tor and it is important that we demonstrate to the European Union our active support of rare species.  We really don’t want to get caught up in the French fiasco where they seem to show a heartless disregard for the Great Hamsters of Alsace.”

“Our worry is that The Wombles are renowned for their drug-fuelled rampages.  While on stage they are the very image of sobriety and family-friendliness – but the moment they get off stage it’s a different story.  Can you imagine what it would be like if they were allowed onto Glastonbury Tor in that state?  It’s anyone’s guess what would happen if one of the many Somerset Stranglers, on their daily trek to forage for cotton wool, were to be confronted by a six foot tall wild-eyed rodent, high on drugs and hell-bent on litter-picking – the last thing we want is a pitched battle between Wombles and hamsters.  It would be Mods and Rockers all over again.”

A day without signs on Glastonbury Tor

Dog confused by temporary absence of Keep Off The Grass and Keep Off The Path signs on Glastonbury TorVisitors to Glastonbury Tor were disoriented today by the complete absence of hundreds of Keep Off The Grass and Keep Off The Path signs.

Dozens of workers had spent hours overnight removing the old signs in preparation for new multilingual signs that conform to EU regulations. The new signs became necessary when Glastonbury Tor was granted mountain status earlier this year as a result of growing to over 190 metres tall.

European regulations for health and safety on mountains are much more stringent, including the requirement that safety messages must be repeated in French, Swedish and Luxembourgish – the international language of mountaineers.

Fearing some kind of bureaucratic trick, early visitors milled around the nimbleness assessment area at the base of the tor, but as numbers grew some braver visitors started to tentatively attempt to climb the summit.

It was many hours before the first visitor arrived at St. Michael’s Tower, a fact that observers put down to the lack of signs indicating which way to walk. It wasn’t just new visitors who were confused – members of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union were also unable to decide which way to walk to get to the summit, leading many to question whether their position at the top of the Pilgrims League is really as firm as had been believed.

Chief mystical consultant Uther Henge stationed permanently at the gift shop at Glastonbury Tor spoke on behalf of the National Trust; “We expect everything to be back to normal this week as we begin the major task of restoring the signage on Glastonbury Tor. With more than a thousand signs to go up this is obviously a major task so visitors should expect some disruption. But during this time we have several specially trained staff members on hand to help people find the summit.  They will have plenty of copies of our leaflet Which Way Is Up?”

Many people have asked what will happen to the old single-language signs in the hope that they may be sold in the gift shop, but we understand that they are to be reassigned to non-mountainous National Trust properties.

Super Jupiter may pose gravity risk

Effect of Super Jupiter on Glastonbury TorScientists at Glastonbury Observatory are warning that Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, will pass unusually close to the earth later this year – the closest it has been in the last 500 years.  And this is particularly important for Glastonbury Tor as it is the highest geographical feature in South West England.

This news comes hot on the tails of the recent supermoon and supersun in 2011, both of which posed their own set of risks to visitors at Glastonbury Tor, while delighting those visitors who are keen on extreme sports.

Kirsten Denier from Glastonbury Observatory is keen to make visitors to the tor aware of the special risks posed by Super Jupiter; “All of the planets go around the sun in a different elliptical orbit and there are times when some get unusually close to each other.  Obviously this is all completely normal and has been going on for thousands of years without a hitch.  But according to our calculations, later this year when Jupiter flies very close to Somerset a number of things will happen that people need to consider.  Anyone with binoculars will have a great time because you will be able to make out details on the surface of Jupiter and its moons that would normally be invisible to all but the most powerful telescope.”

But Denier continued; “However, we anticipate that because Jupiter is so big it will exert a gravitational pull that will make everything in Somerset about 5% lighter.  This might not sound like much, but for visitors to Glastonbury Tor who are that much closer the effect is even stronger.  If you are planning on pitching a tent on Glastonbury Tor you should consider using twice as many tent pegs, and if you bring a child you should hold its hand firmly while standing on the peak.”

Visitors to Glastonbury Tor might consider weighing themselves down with Kendal Mint Cake, which is available in 10kg bars at the gift shop.

Are dogs allowed at Glastonbury Tor?

The most common question that people ask when they are considering a visit to Glastonbury Tor is “are dogs allowed?”

Surprisingly, it’s not just dog owners who ask this question, but also owners of other pets who are considering a visit and want to know if they will be welcomed.

The answer is simple – under certain conditions, most breeds of dog are welcome to visit the tor, and subject to passing a simple evaluation test may also be able to join the queue to use one of the many dog trolleys that are provided for pets that may otherwise struggle to make it all the way to the top.

There is a very simple weeding-out process that enables the quality of animal visitors to be kept high, and make sure everyone enjoys the view from the top of the tor without ruining it for anyone else. Your pet just has to pass the following simple tests in order to be awarded a yellow wrist-band that allows them entry to the tor for up to a week:

  1. Is this pet visiting the tor of its own free will? Most animals appear bouncy and happy at the prospect of scaling Glastonbury Tor, but any animal that looks sullen, grumpy, or pulls in the wrong direction on its lead may be referred to the resident animal psychologist for evaluation before being allowed onto the tor. The psychologist’s decision is final, although you do have the right to appeal to the Glastonbury Vets Ombudsman.
  2. Is this a Shih-Tzu that has been disguised as a more butch breed of dog? Any attempt to pass a Shih-Tzu off as anything other than a cat could cause it to be banned from the tor for up to six weeks.
  3. Is this a Somerset Strangler that is being repatriated by someone who did not realise what bad pets they make? There are official channels for repatriation. Sneaking one of these potentially deadly hamsters through the Nothing To Declare channel could result in the severest of penalties.

Notes for human visitors

Human visitors should also note – now that Glastonbury Tor has achieved mountain status you should bring plenty of provisions so that if the weather changes unexpectedly at this high altitude you won’t get caught out. There are, after all, few more embarrassing things than having the air sea rescue services called out, when the simple measure of bringing a few vital supplies could have seen you safely returning to basecamp under your own steam.

There is a simple mnemonic – KITES. Visitors to the tor learn about this in the information area at the gift shop:

K – Kendal Mint Cake – a standard kilogram bar should suffice on a day trip. Remember to bring some for every member of your party, including pets.

I – Igloo construction skills – if the weather should change at high altitude it is always worth knowing how to fashion a rudimentary igloo from the permanent icecap on Glastonbury Tor

T – a Tent or bivouac – in case the weather turns nasty. Remember there are no toilet facilities for a thirty mile radius around Glastonbury Tor so you should consider bringing a porta-loo.

E – Elvish principles – think back to the last Lord Of The Rings film you saw – which race was always best equipped to fend for themselves when out in the wilderness? The Elves – that’s who. All you need to do is think about how one of the elves would fend for themself in a tricky situation. Obviously we are referring to one of the principal characters, not one of the red-shirted CGI cannon-fodder who have their head sliced off by an Uruk-Hai in the siege of Gondor.

S – Swiss Army Knife – these are always useful, although it will need to be surrendered if you want to visit the toast-making display at St. Michael’s Tower.

The Uther Henge guide to perfect toast

Traditional single Insertion methodTraditional single Insertion method

The traditional method of toasting. You simply adjust the toaster setting so that it pops up cooked to perfection. At least, that’s the idea. The reality is that several factors usually result in very uneven toasting.

Advantages:

  • Speed
  • Simplicity
  • Basic toaster settings
  • No special training required

Disadvantages:

  • Uneven toasting (unless you use the Breville Toastmatic 4000)

Double insertion method (mid-stage horizontal rotation)Double insertion method

The first level of advanced toast-making. The toaster is set to half the standard setting, and when it pops out midway you rotate the bread horizontally before reinserting for the second stage.

Advantages:

  • Consistent toasting on both sides

Disadvantages:

  • Top of bread often toasted more than bottom
  • Inexperienced users can burn their fingers at the midway stage
  • Basic training required

The Uther Henge Flip (mid-stage vertical rotation)The Uther Henge Flip

The pinnacle of practical toast-making. This is a simple improvement over the horizontal double insertion method. The introduction of a vertical flip creates fantastic toast.

Advantages:

  • Consistent toasting top to bottom on both sides

Disadvantages:

  • Resetting toaster to half the single insertion value confuses other toaster users who have to be forcefully inducted into the ways of the Uther Henge Flip.

Horizontal rotation followed by vertical flip followed by second vertical flipHorizontal rotation followed by vertical flip followed by second vertical flip at one-third and two-third stages

This over-elaborate method of toasting results in the most consistent browning but is so complex that most people get worse results than the traditional single insertion method.

Advantages:

  • Incredibly even toasting

Disadvantages:

  • Requires quadruple insertion
  • Many novices fail to observe the rule that bread should be inserted either once, or an even number of times, but never an odd number, unless of course you introduce a final finishing off phase to remedy any inconsistencies
  • Setting the toaster becomes very complex
  • Toaster needs to be reset for subsequent slices to prevent over-cooking
  • Constant monitoring necessary to avoid burning
  • Many people forget how many toast rotations they have performed because they are distracted by other events in the kitchen

Factors to consider

Is your bread sliced by hand or machine?

Hand-slicing is less consistent than machine-slicing and the raised areas can become especially burnt. But you may be able to spread more Hobgoblin Marmalade on hand-sliced bread because it has a greater surface area. Experts call this the Goblin Ratio.

Is the bread thicker at one end than the other?

This can have a massive impact on the flow of hot air through your toaster, disrupting your calculations. You may be wise to set some time aside for wind-tunnel testing if your slices of bread are particularly wedge-shaped.

Who is Uther Henge?

Uther Henge is the chief mystics consultant for the National Trust stationed permanently at their gift shop at Glastonbury Tor. If you visit St. Michael’s Tower on top of Glastonbury Tor you can experience the Making Toast Through The Ages display at which Uther Henge gives a twice-daily lecture Toast, the Tor, Past Present and Future. Henge invented the Uther Henge Flip during one of his lectures when he realised that this unintuitive method of rotating bread resulted in a better and more consistent slice of toast.

Infographic

This information is available as an infographic:
The Uther Henge guide to perfect toast infographic

Glastonbury supersun threatens to incinerate visitors

Glastonbury supersunSunwatchers on Glastonbury Tor in Somerset were rewarded with the rare supersun phenomena today, only weeks after the recent supermoon. Scientists are wondering if there is a connection.

Glastonbury supersuns occur when the earth passes unusually close to the sun on its elliptical axis. Because the tor is the highest geographical feature in South West England it is the best chance many people have of getting a really good look at the sun.

Uther Henge, the chief mystical consultant for the National Trust stationed permanently at their gift shop at Glastonbury Tor offered visitors some sound words of advice; “The sun came very close today – if felt like you could reach out and touch it. But on this special day visitors need to be very wary. Some people actually started to sunbathe, but luckily we stopped them in time. It’s not just the intense rays from the sun that can cause your skin to wrinkle up and start fizzling, but the heat makes the hamster burrows uncomfortably hot, so you find a lot of the Somerset Stranglers come to the surface, and you know how territorial they are – they become very frisky.”

Henge continued; “Anyone venturing onto the tor on a supersun day should make sure they have plenty of aluminium foil and calamine lotion. If you forget to bring some, or run out, it is available in the gift shop. The next supersun will be in 5 years.”

King Arthur had Glastonbury Tor paved in ancient times

Visitors to Glastonbury Tor are familiar with the information boards at the gift shop, that tell the history of the tor since it was discovered in 1275.  Chief Gatekeeper Titania Bonham-Smythe will often quiz visitors on key facts before allowing them entry, much to the annoyance of visitors with poor short term memories who sometimes have to take the test several times.

But a recent geophysics scan commissioned by Glastonbury Archaeology Society has uncovered interesting facts that fill big gaps in our knowledge of the tor that have mystified experts for hundreds of years.

Geophysics is the electronic mapping technique used by Tony Robinson’s Time Team to create underground and subsurface images that tell archaeologists where to dig trenches.

It is common knowledge that King Arthur was responsible for creating the path that runs from the base of the tor where the gift shop now stands, to St. Michael’s Tower at the top.  Preservation of the ancient path is a real challenge for the National Trust.  But geophysics has revealed that the paving was once much more widespread – covering the whole of Glastonbury Tor.

Expert opinion is divided as to why King Arthur would have wanted the whole thing paved, but we now know that only the imprints from the paving slabs can be found on the electronic geophys scans – the slabs themselves are long gone.

Barry Spright, chief scanner at Torsion Bar Dynamics, the geophysics company responsible for the latest scan is keen to put forward his explanation; “Historical records tell us that when they travelled around Britain, King Arthur and his merry men paved important areas to mark his reign – the largest being Trafalgar Square, although of course it was called Lady Guinevere Plaza at the time. Even today you can visit many high streets in England and see the evidence of their work.”

Spright continues; “Our scans have revealed the huge scale of King Arthur’s original work – the imprints left by the paving stones are clearly visible deep underground.  The question is what happened to them? Could it be that all those slabs paving the back gardens of Glastonbury once graced the tor itself?”

If you have a paving slab in your garden that you believe might once have been on Glastonbury Tor you can hand it in at Glastonbury Police Station during the 30 day amnesty.

Keep off the path signs cause incendiary rage

Many visitors to Glastonbury Tor were understandably upset by the arrival of 500 Keep Off The Grass signs in January. But they have been thrown into complete confusion by a new set of signs instructing them to keep off large sections of the path that runs from the National Trust gift shop at the base of the tor to St. Michael’s Tower at the top.

These emergency measures have been put in place because dozens of people visit the tor every year and the pathway that was installed in ancient times by King Arthur and his merry men is showing clear signs of water damage.

Uther Henge, the chief mystical consultant for the National Trust stationed permanently at their gift shop at Glastonbury Tor explained; “This is just a temporary measure because of the recent flooding. We are trying to give it time to dry out. It is quite simple – when visitors walk up the path and encounter one of the banned sections they need to tiptoe along the channel of gravel on the edge that separates the grass from the pathway. Obviously this involves some nimble footwork, but we have trained assistants on hand to prop people up if they look like they are going to stumble. We have also set up a nimbleness assessment area at the gift shop where visitors can practice walking along a narrow channel of gravel to see if they meet the standards required to make a proper ascent. It allows us to weed out anyone who looks like they will cause a problem.”

Speaking on behalf of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union, Chief Stairmaster Paul Hompkins was keen to bring attention to the challenge that union members are now encountering on their daily barefoot walk from Glastonbury town to the top of the tor; “For many years, union members have taken special measures to avoid eroding the path that leads to the top of Glastonbury Tor, but unfortunately there is a worn channel up the middle that collected a lot of water in the recent flood. This Christmas we began sewing little bags of cement into our trousers and shaking it down our legs to try and fill the holes. So far we have reversed fifty years of wear, but we still have a way to go.”

Hompkins continued; “You can understand that our barefoot ascent of the tor has become very difficult because so much is now confined to the painful gravel channels. Our members have got around this by strapping tennis rackets on their feet. Interestingly this seems to add to the solemnity of their penitent journey.”