The Chalice Well Garden

Gate to the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, Somerset
Sign over the gateway to the Chalice Well. © Karen Netto (Andrews)

Glastonbury is steeped in British history and myth. The Chalice Well has been regarded as a sacred place since ancient times. The town has long been recognised as a Christian spiritual centre. It also claims that there are more than 70 practising faiths there. The Chalice Well and Garden is regarded as a spiritual place and living sanctuary. It is associated with Wellesley Tudor Pole. All are welcome to visit and share the garden’s peace and tranquillity. It offered particular respite after Britain’s tempestuous political week.

Glastonbury Thorn

The garden shelters one of the town’s famous Glastonbury Thorns. I previously wrote about the Glastonbury Thorn, Craetaegus monogyna var. biflora in a 2017 Advent Botany Guest Blog. It was good to see a living tree in the garden behind the Lion’s Head Spring. It seems that my visit was ill-timed as the tree only had a few berries and leaves left. However, it was covered in lichen and moss. Lichen are often indicators of pure air quality.

Lion’s Head Spring with the Glastonbury Thorn Tree (Crataegus monogyna var. biflora), behind
© Karen Netto (Andrews)
The Lion Spring in one of many garden rooms surrounded by a wide range of trees
© Karen Netto (Andrews)
The cascade’s waters glow orange with their rich iron content in King Arthur’s Court area of the garden
© Karen Netto (Andrews)
The spring waters cascade down to the figure-of-eight-shaped Vesica Pool at the bottom of the garden
© Karen Netto (Andrews)
The Chalice Well surrounded with flowers and fruit at the top of the garden
© Karen Netto (Andrews)
One of the many seating areas, seen looking down from The Meadow area of the garden
© Karen Netto (Andrews)

The garden offers many seats to pause in tranquillity, unfortunately that is not always easy in one of Britain’s major tourist towns. My visit followed a couple of days after World Peace Day and the Autumn Equinox associated in Welsh mythology with the God Mabon. He is described as the Child of Light and the son of the Earth Mother Goddess, Modron.

Sunshine after the Rain

It was drizzling when I first arrived in the garden. I had to change all my camera settings when bright sunshine broke out in the garden. Bees and butterflies returned to the garden’s flowers with the sunshine.

Bee on the shrub gardeners still call Abelia x grandiflora. Now called Linnaea x grandiflora
© Karen Netto (Andrews)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) on Japanese Anemone. © Karen Netto (Andrews)

As a botanist, I was pleased to discover that the Chalice Well had plant name signs in the herb garden. Although the accepted name now seems to be Aloysia citrodora for A. triphylla according to Kew’s Plant List. The RHS agrees but notes 4 different binomials in total and alternative common names. Plant classifications are complicated today, despite Linnaeus’ best efforts.

Plant name sign for botanists in the herb garden © Karen Netto (Andrews)

There were some beautiful autumn berries on trees and shrubs in the garden. Below are the purple berries of the aptly named Beautyberry, Callicarpa.

Purple berries in autumn sunshine of Beautyberry, Callicarpa
© Karen Netto (Andrews)

There were many other lovely autumn plants, shrubs and trees in the garden. One of my autumn favourites is the Ice Plant, Sedum or Hylotelephium spectabile. It is usually popular with insects too.

By contrast, I always regarded Hydrangeas as the unimaginative gardeners’ choice for their front garden until I saw the beautiful hydrangeas at RHS Rosemoor in Devon and gardens of Cornwall.

The Chalice Well Garden features a number of the garden plants that the RHS recommends for pollinators. They provide nectar and pollen for bees and many other types of pollinating insects.

Japanese Anemone hybrid in close-up from the Chalice Well Garden: a recommendation for pollinators
© Karen Netto (Andrews)

Apart from all its beautiful garden plants, the garden also boasts a view of Glastonbury Tor. You have to peer between the berries the Sorbus species or Rowan trees. In British folklore, the Rowan is reputed to offer protection from witchcraft and enchantment.

Glastonbury Tor can be seen between the Rowans in The Meadow area of the Chalice Well Garden
© Karen Netto (Andrews)

There are also impressive tangles of Yew, Taxus baccata, branches in the garden. Though toxic, Yews have long been considered sacred trees in Britain. They symbolised death and resurrection in Celtic Culture. I headed home revived in spirits by my visit to the Chalice Well Garden, noting how even the dreary weather had improved since my arrival.

Copyright Note 

© Karen Netto (Andrews)

These pages illustrate my love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. I love sharing. This blog is a showcase for my own photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics.

© Karen Netto (Andrews) 2018-19. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Netto (Andrews) and botanykaren.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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