Tag Archives: National Trust

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.”

Glastonbury Tor ready to receive visitors again after returning from Olympics opening ceremony

Brisk sales of cat muzzles resume as Glastonbury Tor returns from London Olympics opening ceremonyYesterday was a busy day for Titania Bonham-Smythe and her colleagues at the National Trust gift shop at the base of Glastonbury Tor, following a week that saw the sale of the smallest number of cat muzzles since records began.

“It was obviously a great honour for the tor to feature so prominently in the Olympics opening ceremony in London” explained Titania “but that has caused very low visitor numbers. Now the tor has been re-seated we’ve been overwhelmed with little jobs preparing for the deluge of visitors today”.

The journey back from London along the M4 motorway was not without difficulty for Glastonbury Tor. The rocket transporters used to transport the mountain that were on loan from the aeronautics department of the Mystical University of Glastonbury were never designed to cover such huge distances – normally the furthest they would take their rocket payload would be from the university buildings in the heart of Glastonbury to the launch area on the Summerland Meadows just a few miles away. Something as simple as a puncture in one of the mammoth tyres on the transporter could cause hours of delay, with resulting tailbacks infuriating motorists.

But Bonham-Smythe is confident that visitors will enjoy a fabulous mystical day out at Glastonbury Tor today, unaware of the fervent behind-the-scenes activity; “Patricia Barnyard from the Glastonbury Dogwalker’s Trust has been in to oil the wheels of the dog trolleys, and the gentlemen from the GIPN (the Geneva Institute of Protuberance Nomenclature) have signed off the tor at 190 metres tall, meaning that it continues to qualify for mountain status.”

And probably the best news of all for nature lovers is that now it’s back from London, many Somerset Stranglers have been sighted emerging from their nests on Glastonbury Tor. Although July is traditionally the nesting period for hamsters worries had been building that the trip to London would cause a mass exodus. Fortunately a special grant of 500kg of cotton wool from the Olympic organising committee ensured that the hamsters were safely protected in their nests.

Glastonbury Tor out of bounds to public during Olympic Games opening ceremony

Visitors to Glastonbury Tor were alarmed this morning when they discovered that work has started on the huge job of slicing through the base of the Tor so it can be transported hundreds of miles to the Olympic Games opening ceremony on 27th July.

Olympic Games Opening Ceremony 2012The Tor will be placed on a specially constructed rocket transporter that is on loan from the aeronautics department of the Mystical University of Glastonbury, and will then be driven along the M4 motorway in time to feature as the centrepiece of the extravaganza at the start of the Olympic Games.  Because it is a wide load the Tor will occupy two lanes, only leaving one lane for overtaking.  The AA has warned motorists to expect delays.

Speaking on behalf of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union, Chief Stairmaster Paul Hompkins had mixed feelings about the event; “it is traditional to go all out to impress at the Olympic Games opening ceremonies, and we appreciate that since Glastonbury Tor achieved mountain status that it has become one of the most important visitor attractions in England. But at the same time, you have to appreciate that this will be the first time in hundreds of years that the members of the Glastonbury Pilgrims Union haven’t been able to make their daily barefoot walk from the middle of Glastonbury town to the top of the Tor.  During this enforced break we’re going to have a lot of surplus Kendal Mint Cake. Fortunately the National Trust gift shop at the base of the Tor have very kindly offered to take it off our hands.  But for me, it’s more about the break in tradition.”

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.

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.


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


  • 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.


  • Consistent toasting on both sides


  • 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.


  • Consistent toasting top to bottom on both sides


  • 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.


  • Incredibly even toasting


  • 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.


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 Garlic signs confound Glastonbury Tor visitors

Keep Off The Garlic sign on Glastonbury TorThe 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.

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.”