Monthly Archives: August 2009

Glastonbury Tor as a sacred landscape

Glastonbury Tor Sacred Landscape

Glastonbury Tor Sacred Landscape

Glastonbury Tor is a sacred place, in the same region (the Somerset Levels) as the oldest engineered road in north Europe, the Sweet Track (tree-ring dating establishes the construction date at 3806 BCE). Physically, Glastonbury Tor resembles Silbury Hill. My  view (see evidence below) is that it has been a sacred site since Neolithic times. European Christianity grew in opposition to paganism, banning garden luxury and felling sacred trees, but was willing to take advantage of the sacred sites and to use them as sites for church building. We can therefore see some connection with the animism of Central Asia and the custom of building temples on hills and mountains.

The National Trust conservation statement for Glastonbury Tor summarizes what is known of Glastonbury Tor’s history as follows:

Later Neolithic 2900-2200BC, flint and stone artefacts found from this period. later Bronze Age 1400-600BC. Very little known about this period. Romano-British 43AD-410AD. Prehistoric and Roman finds- early and late Roman pottery.
Dark Age centred on 600 AD, timber building, evidence of metal workings, substantial metal working, Roman Samian pot shards.
Late Saxon-early Medieval 600-1066 AD, monastic settlement, possible wooden church.
Medieval 1066-1485 AD, two or more successive stone churches on summit. Priest’s house and other buildings on shoulder.
Tudor 1485-1603. Very little known about this period.
Stuart 1603-1714. Very little known about this period.
Hanover 1714-1901, rebuilding of the tower in 1848. The 1821 rates map and 1844 tithe map show Tor field (the lower enclosed fields?) were used for arable crops well into the 19th century. St Michaels Tower restored.
1933 National Trust acquires Tor field with St Michaels Tower.
1948 further restoration works on the St Michaels Tower.

From little things big things grow


When Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown first released their text Learning From Las Vegas in 1972 the idea of the importance of  unity or disunity of vision created within the visual environment by urban patterning and built form had been greatly neglected.

Perhaps, the shock of the everyday assisted in alerting the design professions to the importance of the prosaic nature (common v heroic) of the constructed urban environment even where hyper-reality is the norm.

The text is credited with re-humanising the built environment through its influence in promoting and disseminating the tenets of the emerging Postmodern movement.

Learning from Las Vegas continues to  influence in surprising and controversial ways the thinking of designers including landscape designers and multi-media designers through its insightful analysis of the visual environment.

Viewing the original photographs of Denise Scott Brown is a revelation in perception and an eye for beauty in the ordinary.


Scott Brown Photographs []

Landscape []

Cerne Abbas Giant, Oliver Cromwell and assisted suicide

Cerne Abbas GiantLong viewed as a Celtic or Roman god, a very disappointing 1973 theory (by John Hutchins)  sees the giant as a political cartoon cut on the instructions of Denzil Holles in the 1640s to represent Oliver Cromwell. Denzil Holles hated Cromwell but I admire him and, if the history is correct, would see the Cerne Abbas cartoon as that of a man who felt that only the excercise of force could restore the virility of English democracy.

A Populus opinion poll ( for The Times in July 2009) found ‘overwhelming public support’ ( from 74% of those questioned)  for a change in the law to allow medically assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Since the UK parliament continues to oppose the measure, I think we need a new Cromwell to explain to MPs that their job is to carry forward the will of the people. He or she could use make two quotations from Oliver Cromwell:

“I beseech you in the bowels of Christ think it possible you may be mistaken.”

“You have been sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of god, go!.”

If the reminders do not achieve the necessary result, MP’s should be clubbed – for the crime of not respecting the known wishes of the electorate.

PS as a god-fearing man, Cromwell is likely to have opposed assisted suicide. Since many of its members are elderly, one might assume the National Trust, which cares for the Cerne Abbas Giant, to be in favour of the measure.

Greening the garden sculpture

jeff-koons-bilbao-garden-sculptureHow about combining your garden and your sculpture investment and commissioning a piece of art (topiary) from Jeff Koons? The artist is responsible for this imaginative 43 foot high ‘vertical garden’ at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in the mid-1990s.

For fire, water, air and earth see also the environmental sculpture of Elena Columbo.

Seasonal colour


The aesthetics and perfume of flowers have always attracted…however I know little about the cultivation of plants. [] So I will indulge in some self-education in an attempt to at least improve my awareness and save myself from future embarrassment.

The results of my research:

1) Tulips are one of the earliest flowers to bud. Because they appear while there is still snow cover, spring flowering bulbs are used to varying temperatures and will grow in spurts.

2) The majority of tulips are not scented, but those that are scented have caused unexpected delight.

3) Variegation in tulips are cause by a fungal infection!

5) Successful planting is like dance choreography!

6) Tulip fields make striking environmental art! Perhaps even offer the perfect opportunity to propose….

7) The first tulip festival was said to have taken place in Turkey during full moon with guests dressed in colours to harmonise with the flowers.

8) Tulips grow in the alpine region of Kyrgyzstan. 

Reconstituted stone garden ornament

Reconstituted stone garden ornaments develop a patina which depends on where they are placed

Reconstituted stone garden ornaments develop a patina which depends on where they are placed

Most of the ‘concrete ornaments’ in garden stores are vile, some more reminiscent of a stained WC pan than of a stone garden ornament. But there are some notable exceptions and the best quality products we know of are made by Chilstone. The company explains that each ornament ‘is handmade in reconstituted stone by a special process, developed over our long history to ensure a finished texture virtually indistinghishable from natural stone’. They specialize in making accurate copies of antique originals. Mosses and lichens grow well on the products and the species which flourish depend entirely on the local environmental conditions (shade, sun, moisture etc) so that they become INDISTINGHISHABLE from natural stone ornaments. The ingredients are crushed stone and a binder – with no use of the sand or aggregate normally used in making concrete. The ornaments are not very cheap but they are very good, so that many Chilstone items have been sold at Sotheby’s for many times their original retail price. You can think of them as an investment!

Reconstituted stone: freshly cast (left) and in the early stages of developing a patina (right)

Reconstituted stone: freshly cast (left) and in the early stages of developing a patina (right)