The National Trust

Talk about the Tor

1998 Consultation Process on Glastonbury Tor – a summary
February 1999


The National Trust launched the Talk about the Tor campaign earlier in 1998 to encourage people to put forward their views on the future management of Glastonbury Tor. The National Trust recognises the Tor is a special place loved by locals and visitors alike. The Trust wanted to consult with as many people as possible before putting together a management plan for this beautiful and historic site.

To encourage people to send their thoughts the Trust :
* included an article in the National Trust Wessex Regional Newsletter – print run 110,000 (covering Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire
* included information on the National Trust's Internet Web Site with an email reply address
* sent out press releases to local and regional media about the campaign
* held an exhibition in Glastonbury Town Hall
* gave illustrated talks about the Tor

The response

The National Trust received 92 replies in this consultation process.

Of these:
* 50 replies came from Glastonbury residents
* 24 replies came from the rest of Somerset
* 11 from other regions in the UK
* 2 overseas replies
* 5 unknown addresses

Key Responses

Why is it special?
The Tor's association with myths and legends, early Christian history, pilgrims, religion, leylines and spirituality link alongside feelings of peace, space, magic, freedom and mystery in the replies. It was felt to be a sacred site and unique in its qualities.

The amazing views, (including those at night with a full moon) and its place as an extraordinary landmark and important geological site were described as being of special appeal. Uplifting, stimulating, wonderful, amazing, unique and impressive were among the descriptions.

Those who replied felt the Tor is important to different people for different reasons and some talked about their personal experiences of the Tor from dog walking and sitting, enjoying the views to Morris dancing and picnicking.

Aspects for improvement
Many different aspects of the Tor were commented on in the replies. The matters encouraging most response were in the areas of traffic and parking; railings and fencing; access; paths and erosion; vandalism; information and signs; noise pollution; wardening; commercial facilities, the Maze and fields and base of the Tor.. The following is a summary of thoughts and ideas put forward.

Traffic and parking
The topic of traffic and parking elicited the largest number of responses and suggestions for ways forward. Although some respondents suggested a car park should be created close to the Tor, there was much greater support for parking away from the site and greater use of a frequent and improved Park and Ride service operating from the town centre.

Many people commented on the traffic and parking in Wellhouse Lane and suggestions ranged from closing the lane to all traffic except residents; making it one way; imposing traffic restrictions and a 10-15 mph speed limit and allowing limited parking. Other suggestions included maximising car parking space on the highway on the North side of the Tor, use of double yellow lines, vehicular access from the East with access for Eastern ring road and moving the A361 to a ring road.

Walking, cycling and donkey rides were also suggested as better ways to reach the Tor. One person wrote : "Visitors seek a Glastonbury experience – not traffic nightmares".

Railings and Fencing
Of those people who commented on the issue of railings around the historic tower, more than half felt railings should not be erected. They suggested railings would be an eyesore, target for vandalism, alienate visitors and not deter vandals. Some commented it would be drastic action to take after just a small number of incidents.

There was also strong feeling that railings should be put up to protect the tower for future generations. Metal bars, guard rails and use of razor wire were also suggested. Some writers recalled earlier railings in place which were bent to allow uncontrolled access.

Fencing – of those who commented on fencing ten out of 13 said fencing should not be used on the Tor; two said the site should be fenced allowing more control on access and possible charging and one said it may be necessary to put up a fence with coin/token operated access.

The idea of continued unrestricted access was generally well supported. Correspondents commented that access should never be restricted; that simple access was one of the special qualities of Glastonbury Tor; different interest groups should be welcomed; the Tor is wonderful under moonlight; and not desirable to restrict or control numbers. A senior priest of a religious order using the Tor was also concerned there should be no restrictions.

Others commented that preservation and access cannot occur side by side and a suggestion that the Tor should be treated 'like a mini Stonehenge' with full access only allowed at certain times.

Paths and erosion
Comments on the paths and suggestions for the future were varied. Two people thought the blue lias paving was slippery and should be replaced. Other suggestions included steps to replace steepest paths; cobbling of path near well; restoring ancient paths and removing modern ones; create more paths and upgrade current ones. One commented that many people are unaware they can walk around the Tor.

Current work by the National Trust to counteract erosion was praised and suggestions included repairing grass in winter; widening footpaths in places; control of rabbits by natural methods and perhaps laying more steps. A timed admission system was one suggestion to avoid overcrowding the paths. The need for more erosion control on Southern slopes was pointed out.

Correspondents who commented on vandalism felt there have been a couple of isolated incidents but considering the number of visitors to the Tor these are few and far between. Suggestions to help combat it included use of cameras, more wardens on site, closing at dusk and creating a more cared-for setting to encourage more caring response.

Information and signs
The consultation showed a wish for more information and signs both on and off site. On the Tor signs were suggested which conveyed more about its historical and spiritual nature and its significance to Pagans and Christians. The updating of panels at the entrances was requested giving details of origin, history, archaeology and facts and figures with translations available at the Tourist Information Centre. Information/signs were also suggested on erosion sites, litter, sheep worrying by dogs, geology and other historical sites in Glastonbury. Information to be given to visitors before they arrive was also suggested eg on Park and Ride and taxi, regarding respect and behaviour expected.

Noise pollution
Drumming on the Tor was mentioned by a small number of respondents, the majority of whom were not disturbed by the sound. Some said they enjoyed it; done with good motivation; a valid expression of the spirit and room for music and ritual. Others suggested a cut off point to stop drumming by between 9 and 11pm. One person commented he was disturbed constantly by drumming/shouting and screaming and another described it as ‘a wretched nuisance’. Another said it was probably against local bylaws at night.

There was support for a team of volunteer wardens from the local community to help with all aspects of work on the Tor from scrub clearance to helping deter vandalism. A Tor Watch' at peak times was suggested. Also giving more custodianship to responsible locals.

Commercial/visitor facilities
Of those who mentioned this aspect, most were against commercialisation and tourist amenities within close range. Others commented that visitors are entitled to proper facilities including parking, visitor centre, toilets and lifts for disabled people. Another commented the Trust should work closely with the Chalice Well Trust and Abbey.

There was concern with the preservation of the Maze pathway and suggestion that visitors should have the chance to walk the Maze as a way to the top of the Tor. There was a suggestion by a small group who wish to restore the Maze with natural but durable materials. Another suggested the Trust should buy all the land which makes up the seven spiral maze and use a spiral approach to the Tor.

Surrounding fields and base of the Tor
People's thoughts on the area around the base of the Tor varied from a suggestion that no trees should be allowed to grow because they destroy the lynchets to another's wish for more trees near the paths. The return of wild flowers and insects was welcomed and desires expressed to see this continue. One person commented on how the grazing of cattle and sheep on the Tor was another peaceful ingredient while another questioned the need for grazing as it made for poor walking conditions.

General comments

National Trust website

Comments and suggestions on the matters of entrances, litter, access for less able visitors, funding, building matters, floodlights and other general comments were also received. The National Trust was also congratulated by some for its good work on the Tor. Some correspondents also said they were happy with the Tor as it is and as far as possible it should be left alone.

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