It is a perfect summer’s day. We set off on foot through the Wells Recreation Ground, where musicians are busy setting up and deckchairs are being set out in rows around a band stand. We follow the calm moat of the Bishop’s Palace, and head into the centre of England’s smallest city.
On the main street, a very cheerful policeman entertains our children, telling them about Well’s olympic long jumping champion, Mary Elizabeth Rand. He challenges them to see who can jump the furthest down the cobbled street – her exact record is marked out along the pavement.
There’s a tiny alcove in the corner of the road; a lady with a recorder is setting up to busk there. We exchange smiles with her as we pass through what turns out to be a little corridor. We enter another square, and, suddenly, the magnificent Cathedral is before us.
Wells Cathedral is beautiful; layer upon layer of intricate stone latticework. It is one of the most impressive buildings I have ever been inside.
As we return to the passageway, the lady busker is playing Amazing Grace, which feels a perfect way to bid goodbye to the Cathedral. Our youngest son enjoys dropping coins into her upturned velvet hat.
Back through the park and the brass band is now surrounded by an audience and playing Sleepy Jean, so we pause to listen, join in the applause, and then set off for Glastonbury.
We park in the centre of town, and catch the volunteer-run Community Bus to the foot of the Tor. We are the only passengers and are treated to a guided talk on King Arthur and the history of Glastonbury as the bus climbs up the steep hedge-lined roads. Our eldest son has lots of questions and is delighted when the impressive driver knows the answer to every one. We are dropped off at the start of the footpath.
Last time we were here, many years ago, it was winter, icy, and the steps up were treacherous. The whole landscape was covered in a blanket of thick fog, which felt wonderfully mystical, but afforded little visibility at the top. Today, it is as easy as climbing stairs. The air is still, the sun is shining and we are all at the summit within ten minutes.
We are thrilled that we can view all the way over to the Black Mountains of Wales on the horizon, where we had been hiking just a few week’s earlier.
After a day of travelling, we are driving back towards Bristol when we see a hot air balloon … and then another. We consider the lack of any breeze, and think, well, it is the perfect day for ballooning. Then we see several more, all taking off from the same place. A quick internet search and we realise we have accidentally timed our drive home past Bristol for their Annual Balloon Festival.
Change of plan! We divert into Bristol and follow the balloons. The children are all shouting for joy in the car, the streets are packed with crowds. We wind our way to the highest point we can find, park up and scramble out of the car to watch.
The children have never been to Bristol, so we stay into the late evening, exploring the streets and end a wonderful day munching on leftover pastries from our picnic and admiring the dockside ships. This glorious city deserves more than a few hours … we’ll be back soon.
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