Visitors 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.
Recent visitors to Glastonbury Tor will have noticed that many of the signs instructing them to keep off the grass, keep off the garlic and keep off the path have been kicked over by angry protesters.
Although this is a fairly civilized campaign, with signs being gently kicked so that they stand at a jaunty angle, the gatekeepers at the tor are not taking this behaviour lying down.
In response, Chief Gatekeeper Titania Bonham-Smythe unveiled a new hand-painted instruction board today at the nimbleness assessment area that explains the purpose of the various Keep Off The signs, and the consequences of being caught disobeying the rules.
Bonham-Smythe explains; “As you know, our members of staff love nothing more than stopping ignorant members of public and telling them fascinating historical facts, but we have had to put this on hold since this protest started. My staff members are spending all day just straightening kicked-over signs.”
But speaking on behalf of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union, Chief Stairmaster Paul Hompkins is rather more critical of the new instruction board; “while the message appears quite simple – visitors to the tor are told in no uncertain terms that the Keep Off The signs are there for their own good – it’s the small print that has everyone worried. For example, if you are caught kicking over a sign, even by accident, you can find yourself spending a whole afternoon locked in one of the old cells at St. Michael’s Prison. This has already caused quite a problem for some of our older union members who have a hard time making their daily barefoot ascent. We are used to a life of penitence, but we’re really not accustomed to slopping out, and the food is terrible.”
On the day that the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association cancelled their annual event because of rising petrol prices, the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union are in rather more defiant mood, meaning that rivalry between the two groups has never been more intense.
Regular visitors to Glastonbury Tor will be accustomed to the sight of Glastonbury Pilgrims Union members making their daily barefoot pilgrimage to the top of the tor, nimbly dodging the Keep Off The Grass and Keep Off The Path signs.
Speaking on behalf of the union, Chief Stairmaster Paul Hompkins explained; “Our organisation was the first to introduce daily pilgrimages, while the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association struggle to do it once a year. We were the first to equip each of our members with satellite tracking and a 10kg bar of Kendal Mint Cake on every trip. And I’m sure everyone remembers our campaign “Lead Free In Seventy Three” – we moved over entirely to lead-free petrol almost forty years ago!”
Hompkins continued; “But our big innovation came when we converted to barefoot pilgrimming in the early nineties – since then we haven’t looked back. It means our petrol consumption is a fraction of that used by organisations that still insist on motorised pilgrimages. Of course some of our members get a bit jealous when the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association members overtake them on their motorbikes, but now with petrol going above £1.35 a litre we can expect our strategy to cement our position at the top of the pilgrim league.”
The bid by Glastonbury Horticultural Society to buy Glastonbury Tor from the National Trust moved a step closer to completion today as visitors were met by 100 new Keep Off The Garlic signs.
The signs are part of an experiment to see whether visitors to the tor react favourably to the plans to replant the grass with huge swathes of Garlic and vines if the Glastonbury Horticultural Society buyout is successful.
But critics are concerned that the timing is bad, because last week a new system was introduced requiring visitors to pass a balance test before being allowed to ascend Glastonbury Tor for fear that less nimble visitors would be unable to navigate the complicated Keep Off The Grass and Keep Off The Path signs.
Visitors to Glastonbury Tor will asked to complete a survey to find out which they prefer – garlic or grass – if at least half of the participants prefer garlic then the Glastonbury Horticultural Society buyout will be allowed to proceed.