Keep Tivvy Bumpin’

The drive from Glastonbury to Plymouth is only about two hours, but with no set plans and a huge number of small towns and large parks in between, I decided to give myself an entire day for the drive. The next phase of my road trip was taking shape! After a final Glastonbury breakfast (porridge and honey!) and a warning by Mark to “stay off the B roads,” I got back in the Aygo and started off for Tiverton, a town I selected because it shares a name with another small town near and dear to my heart.


My main stop in Tiverton was the Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life, “home of the Tivvy Bumper,” an old steam train used for about 30 years in the mid-1900s.

The museum has a little bit of everything, and it was perfect. The women at the front desk gave me the basic instructions for getting through (follow the arrows, give them a call when I’m led back to the ground floor to come help open the door to the next sections because it’s a bit particular, feel free to leave and come back as many times as I want throughout the day). They asked what brought me to Tiverton and when I told them about my own Tiverton, they set about collecting information about the UK namesake to bring back home. They told me it would be ready by the time I was finished with the museum and sent me off into the first exhibit, a temporary display about the history of quilting and sewing machines.

As I said, the museum had a little bit of everything, all with clear explanations and engaging displays. I read about the founding of the town, the early industries, the role of the industrial revolution, the impact of different wars, lacemaking, cider making, what a traditional kitchen would look like in several different eras, and small vignettes about local people, accomplishments, and memorabilia.




The phrasing on this…


Beyond the particular door was a yard and stable with different types of carriages, a model blacksmith’s forge, and a room filled with all things transportation, from a wall of bicycles to a selection of old train signal parts, and in the center of it all was the Tivvy Bumper. I walked around it, took a moment to stand inside and marvel at the number of gauges and controls, and then I went back to the museum reception to say goodbye.

After talking a bit more about how the two Tivertons compare, the front-desk women recommended I go look at the canal before leaving. During the summer season, there are still horse drawn barges that provide tours up and down the canal and a tea-house boat offering refreshments at the starting point. I arrived a week or two after the tours were finished for the season, but the tea house was still open, and I enjoyed walking a portion of the horse path and seeing the stables where the horses are kept before heading back to the car.

Despite being warned about the B roads, to get to Plymouth I was going to have to go either around or through Dartmoor National Park, and I decided I may as well try my luck with the B roads and go through. It couldn’t be that bad, could it? Plus, I found a cute little tea room located about halfway through, called Badgers Holt, so I decided to try and aim for that because even the scariest roads can be helped by scones and clotted cream, probably.

OK, so B roads are terrifying. They started out ok, before I was deep into Dartmoor, just slightly narrower than was completely comfortable. Then the hedges got taller, and there was less room to pull aside for passing cars. Then they got curvier, added an incline, and threw in a couple of single lane bridges, cyclists, and cows. I was on high alert and not exactly comfortable, but fine and as I got truly into the park the scenery was incredible. I felt like I was in a Charlotte Bronte or Daphne du Maurier novel and I stopped several times to just take everything in.


It was just starting to rain as I (somewhat miraculously) found the turn for Badgers Holt, and I arrived ready for tea only to find that it had a new schedule and was now closed on Tuesdays. It being Tuesday, I was disappointed, but took a few moments to say hello to the local goats and then got back into the car. And that’s when things got scary.

The road took me back uphill and as I reached the peak, a heavy fog set in. It continued getting thicker until I really couldn’t see more than, maybe 20 yards ahead of me, which was not exactly ideal given the constant vigilance necessary to navigate the road. At the same time, I discovered another quirk of the Aygo: the defog process. Because along with the heavy fog outside, the Aygo had suddenly acquired a heavily fogged window. The defog button worked in clearing the outer edges of the windshield but not the middle. Blasting the air conditioner cleared a portion of the middle, and one corner. Blasting the heat cleared a different portion of the middle and the opposite corner. I was at a loss. I was finding it really difficult to see, my car was doing its little Aygo thing, and it was going to be getting dark soon. I pulled off the road to recollect myself and observe some sheep grazing nonchalantly nearby, and carried on – I briefly wondered if I could wait out the worst of the fog, but I had no idea how long that would take (or if it would even happen – maybe this part of the moors was always foggy?) and I definitely preferred light grey non-visibility to the pitch black variety. So I hopped back in the car, pretended that my high beams were helpful, decided that blasting the heat cleared the most useful parts of the windshield, nodded goodbye to the sheep, ignored the partially overgrown car ominously protruding from a nearby ditch, and went on my way thinking that was possible I should have listened more carefully to Mark.



Eventually, I began seeing small, scattered buildings, and gradually those turned into towns. I was emerging from the moors and getting back to civilization. My windshield still stubbornly refused to clear, so I kept the heat on, but was finally able to loosen my white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel and breathe a little more naturally. After a few more roundabouts and some rush hour traffic – such a jarring change from the empty expanse od nature I had just come from! – I saw the turn for Plymouth, found my hotel, grabbed the last parking space, and put little Aygo very firmly in park (handbreak UP!), happy that I wouldn’t need to drive anywhere for the next few days. Until then, I was ready to take on Plymouth.


Glorious Glastonbury (Day 2)

After an action packed first half day in Glastonbury, I woke up ready to see how much I could tackle given a full day in and around town. The short answer? A LOT.

Glastonbury Abbey


After breakfast, I went straight to Glastonbury Abbey which was founded in the 7th century and lasted until Henry VIII got his hands on it in the 16th. I loved walking around the Abbey grounds largely because even with the majority of buildings in ruins, it was easy to get a visual of how expansive the grounds were. Growing up, my favorite books were the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, but despite his beautiful descriptions of Redwall Abbey’s grounds, inhabitants, and all the things that took place inside the walls it was hard to imagine the true scale (plus, being written about animals it was hard to get the conversions right: if an abbey holds x badgers and y mice plus z additional species, what does that look like in a human equivalent? These are the big questions I have). I stepped onto the Abbey grounds, saw the chapels, the abbot’s kitchen, the dormitories, the ponds, and the orchard and finally GOT it.

As is standard, I wandered around in circles, taking in as much as I could. Highlights included the whale jawbone casually on display over a similarly arched door, seeing the site of the supposed grave of King Arthur and Guinevere, feeling like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as I RAN through the orchard having realized that the path I needed had large, regularly falling apples that I REALLY didn’t want hitting me on the head, and laughing to myself on one of the woodland paths as I passed a sign about the local badger population, which was surrounded by mushrooms. It was maybe the only time in my life I wish I had seen a snake, and then I really would have lost it.

Burns the Baker

This was another place I remembered seeing good reviews for, so when I passed by and noticed they had a caramel slice on display, well, how could I not stop? Absolute bliss. I generally make it a point of trying all the caramel shortbreads I can, for scholarly comparison purposes, of course, and this was a great one.

Glastonbury Tor


I wanted to see the Tor from ALL angles, so I walked around to the back and found the other path to the top. I wasn’t really planning on going all the way up, but then I saw that the path took me through a field of sheep and past Avalon Orchard, so I thought maybe I would just go halfway.

But once I was halfway up it seemed silly not to keep going so I continued on to the top. It was another beautiful day and I found a sunny spot to sit in while a huge number of ladybugs flew around and made themselves comfortable on whatever part of me they found first. It was…unnerving, but not horrible and another magical moment on the Tor.


The White Spring

This was honestly one of my favorite parts of the trip. At the base of Wellhouse Lane, close to where it meets Chilkwell is a fairly unassuming stone building that had a decent sized group of people outside every time I passed it. As I got close this time, a man broke away from the group and asked if I was looking for the White Spring, the calcite-rich sister spring to the Red Spring of Chalice Well, which is across the street. When I said yes, he told me to follow him which I did, after only briefly wondering if this is how I get murdered, and he led me down the dark damp steps into the cavernous building. Inside, it is only lit by candles, there is a giant pool in the middle of the large single room, and each corner is filled with decorations and offerings forming small chapels. The man pointed out which corner housed the masculine energy and which housed the feminine energy, encouraged me to wander freely, and reminded me not to take pictures. I peeked into each of the chapel corners, and then went over to the furthest corner which has a series of tiered pools with the spring at the top. Just about the time I was wondering if I could climb the tiers to see the spring and how likely I was to fall in, a man emerged from the water of the highest tier. Naked. Then he started to jump down lightly and gracefully from tier to tier and then I realized that I probably should not be staring so I quickly retreated to a small stump next to the main pool to sit and contemplate my life and how I was currently in a dark, underground cave with naked strangers. Mom would be so proud.

As I was sitting there, the man who had initially shown me in came over, and after very nicely asking if I was meditating or up for talking, grabbed a nearby stump and gave me the history of the spring. The cavern in its current form has actually only existed for about 12 years, but when the building formerly occupying the space closed, he and his friends asked the owners if they could open it up and so built the different pools that are there today. He told me how the space is technically non-denominational, but that groups from all sorts of backgrounds and beliefs are drawn to the spring and its accompanying energy and many have performed rituals in the large central pool. Most amusingly, there was once a group of women performing a ceremony, naked, at the same time a group of school children were brought in for their own educational purposes and apparently the looks on their faces were priceless. I could relate!

My favorite part of the conversation though (aside from him telling me I didn’t sound American and he thought I could be English!) was talking about how interesting it is that so many people find this place and find that it suits their very different spiritual needs. “I guess it speaks to everyone in its own special way,” I said. The man stopped, turned to me very seriously and said “No. It doesn’t speak at all. It’s a spring.” The pure, pragmatic matter-of-factness of that statement in contrast to the setting of candles, altars, and reverent silence – from the person who had helped build those things, no less! – was an absolute delight.

After we finished talking, and after I confirmed that there were no more surprise naked men, I did in fact make it up a few tiers towards the spring at which point I did in fact trip and almost fall into the pools. I decided that maybe I had had as much of the White Spring as I could handle, found my way back to the stairs, and reemerged into the daylight.

Excalibur Café

Could I really spend time in Glastonbury and not stop at a café called Excalibur? It focuses on plant-based, organic food and drink, which I did not actually consider as I walked in and asked for a latte. The non-dairy milk options are almond, cashew, hemp, or tiger nut. I tried the tiger nut, and while I don’t think I’ll actively seek it out again, it wasn’t bad and I loved the atmosphere of the place.

Glastonbury Tor


Yes, I hiked up Glastonbury Tor twice in one day, but I really wanted to see it at sunset. My legs may not have been thrilled but the view was incredible and my soul was happy. It was the perfect end to my full day in Glastonbury.



My B&B owner, Mark, told me that for a good, quality fish and chips I couldn’t go wrong with Knight’s, right in town center. It has a takeaway and a restaurant and I chose to sit in with a classic fish and chips and a local cider. One really cool feature of Knight’s is that you can request how you would like your fish fried – soft, crispy, light batter, heavy batter, etc and the same with the chips. I chose to go with whatever is their standard, but I thought that was a really nice option you don’t often see for people who have strong batter preferences. It was just the right kind of meal to finish off a whirlwind day and gave me just enough energy to once again drag myself along the short walk home and just barely make it into bed before absolutely passing out.

Glorious Glastonbury (Day 1)

Glastonbury, with its crossing energy lines, deep connections to Arthurian legend, and associations with Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grail, draws in people who are looking for something. It doesn’t have to be something in particular, although it certainly can be – the shops are filled with everything from healing crystals and guides on Eastern mysticism to books about anarchy, veganism, paganism, and Harry Potter. If you are looking for anything even a little bit on the margins of the spiritual or mythical, or if you are looking to become more in sync with nature or the universe, then you have probably felt the pull of Glastonbury.



View from my B&B parking lot


As I pulled into the parking lot of my B&B, the delightful Number 27, I was ready to buy in entirely and embrace whatever Glastonbury sent my way. I had two nights booked and a vague idea of what I needed to see (it was basically a one item, all caps list: GLASTONBURY TOR) and in the end I took a very organic approach to seeing the town – I walked, saw, and ate whatever “felt right” in the moment, and if I had a thought I acted on it. I truly wandered, looped, backtracked, and zip-zagged my way around town based on whim after whim, to the point that 1) I’m so glad I was solo because I probably would have driven even my most laid-back friends insane, and 2) I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if from above my path looked like some ancient rune or cosmic symbol. Too out there? Maybe, but that is what the general Glastonbury vibe and a tiger nut-milk latte or two will do to you.

Anyway. Mark, of Number 27, told me that the best time to see Glastonbury Tor is at sunset, but I couldn’t wait, so I dropped my things off in my adorable room, which overlooked the back garden and the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey, and I practically ran to the base of the Tor. There are two paths up to the top, both off Wellhouse Lane, and I took the more easily accessible one, closer to Chilkwell Street and the Chalice Well gardens. The walk up includes a long gradual approach to St. Michael’s Tower at the top and I think I stopped every few feet or so to stare at the tower, spin around to look at the increasingly stunning views, and take a million pictures. And then I would stand and stare for a few extra minutes to make sure I was appreciating everything in real time and not just through a camera lens. And then I would walk another few feet and repeat the process. When I finally reached the top I couldn’t stop smiling. It truly was all my 13-year old self’s dreams come true.



Eventually I made my way back down and took the opportunity to stop in the Chalice Well gardens, home to the iron-rich Red Spring and supposed location of the Holy Grail, depending on who you ask. The gardens are beautiful with meandering paths and plenty of benches for sitting and reflecting. Certain areas are designated for silence, but even in the ones that aren’t the gardens are pretty quiet aside from the sound of running water. At the Lion Head Fountain you can actually drink or bottle the spring water. I took a sip and it was so metallic it made my teeth hurt.


From there, I wandered back into the town center and realized that I hadn’t actually eaten since breakfast in the Iceland airport that morning before my connecting flight, so that needed to be remedied immediately! Based mostly on the name and a few good reviews I remembered reading, I stopped at Hundred Monkeys, a café with a focus on local and organic foods that are ethically and sustainably sourced. It was actually a gloriously warm and sunny day so I found a seat on the patio and had the gnocchi with an artichoke and bean sauce – the perfect way to refuel after a long day of exploring.

My last stop before dragging myself back to the B&B and straight to BED was the George and Pilgrim, which was built in the 1400s. I got a cider (Cheeky Pig! That name!), found a seat by the window, and chatted with one of the locals about the history of the bar (apparently Henry VIII stayed in Room 6 and from there he watched Glastonbury Abbey burn. Charming man) and whether or not it is actually haunted (Probably).


At that point the combination of sunshine, cider, and a long day of flying, driving, hiking, and dream fulfilling caught up with me, and I headed back to the B&B where I had just about enough energy to drag myself upstairs and into bed.

Where you go, Aygo

Back in September of last year, I was starting to feel a bit restless. I realized that I had absolute masses of use-it-or-lose it vacation time and that the end of the year was fast approaching, so I turned to the internet and started looking into all the places I want to go, places with decently priced tickets, places with good weather, and anywhere with pretty landscapes on Instagram.

And then I had to step away from my computer because I went into information overload and gave myself a headache.

When I was sufficiently recovered, I realized that one place kept jumping out at me throughout my research: England. So, I decided to focus my search there and see what I could come up with.

England has always been one of my favorite places, from my childhood when I was a castle and King Arthur obsessed daydreamer, to when I was 13 and lucky enough to move to London for a couple of years, and ever since. Even as I’ve spent more and more time in Scotland, England continues to have a hold on my heart (shoutout to one of my favorite bands from those magical tween years in the UK!). In the past few years I’ve been trying harder to see new places, instead of going back to places I’ve already been, but there are so many places in England that have been on my Dream to-do list for years, so this seemed like a good chance to get back to place I love and check some new things off my list.

Namely: Glastonbury Tor.

When my family was living in England, we took a weeklong holiday to Cornwall and Devon and, as a King Arthur fanatic, I was absolutely beside myself with excitement. I wandered around in awe of every ancient stone and could barely contain myself at both Tintagel and Slaughterbridge. The trip was going to culminate at Glastonbury Tor…and then we ran out of time. Suddenly it was time to get back to London and back to school and I never made it to Avalon. My poor little heart was broken and not even reading and re-reading my new favorite book (Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead) could console me on the drive home.



Tintagel Castle, 1999


Anyway. Back in 2017 I, definitely not still sad and bitter about this giant injustice of my childhood, realized that maybe this could be my chance to finally get to Glastonbury! And throw in a few other new destinations while I was at it! A road trip, maybe?!

10 days later I found myself in the Enterprise car rental lot at Bristol Airport, having successfully navigated another WOW flight, standing across the counter from Allen (may or may not be his real name). Allen was very nice, but he was also very clearly calculating the likelihood of both me and the car surviving the whirlwind, five-day trip from Glastonbury to Plymouth and back I had planned. Allen looked skeptical. Still, Allen was a professional and after letting me know that he wouldn’t close out my transaction until I was SURE I didn’t want the GPS, he led me outside and told me to wait while he brought the car around. And then it was my turn to be skeptical.

I’m 5’2 and I was travelling by myself with only carryon luggage, and I’m moderately familiar with British roads so I wasn’t expecting anything big. But I also wasn’t exactly expecting the little Toyota Aygo Allen brought around – mostly because up until that point I was unaware that the Toyota Aygo is a thing that exists.





Allen gave me some final instructions (eg, I now know that in the Aygo, drive is “E,” although I don’t know why), and then went back inside to help the next customers. I loaded up my suitcase (which took up the entirety of the boot [is it still a boot in a hatchback?]), turned on my GPS…and nothing happened. So, it was back inside to Allen who pulled out a rental GPS suspiciously quickly, as if he knew this would happen. He handed it to me with a quick nod, and barely a break in what he was telling the next family in line, and I went back outside. I turned on the GPS, put in the address of my Glastonbury B&B, turned the key….and nothing happened. Oh Allen?

It turned out that when Allen backed the car over to me, he left it in reverse when he turned it off, and I hadn’t realized so hadn’t thought to check if it was in neutral before trying to start it. No problem, GPS on, car in neutral, key turned….and nothing.

At this point I was starting to get concerned. How could such a little car be so problematic? How could my 16 years of driving leave me so unprepared for the mysteries of the Aygo? What would I do when Allen wasn’t there? Allen, by the way, was starting to look like he would rather be anywhere else.

It turns out that the ease with which Allen stopped the car in reverse should have been a clue – the Aygo, as far as I can tell, has no “park” gear. To stop, you put it in neutral and use the handbreak. So, the final problem I was encountering was that I, not being someone who frequently uses the handbreak, had forgotten to disengage it before trying to drive. This took a few minutes (that felt like an eternity) to figure out, because Allen would get into the car, release the handbreak, and start it up. Then he would stop, handbrake, and get out to let me try, at which point I wouldn’t think to do anything with the handbreak and so nothing would happen. We cycled through this more times than I care to admit, before Allen figured it out, gave the car one more sad lingering look as though it was the last time he expected to see it intact, and sent us both out into the world.


Spoiler: The Aygo and I, after bonding intensely over B roads and a few other design quirks, did in fact both make it back alive. And who was sitting behind the desk when we did, but Allen! He hid it well, but I know he was thrilled to see me again.

Joking aside, Enterprise was great, the Aygo was everything I needed (and then some), and Allen was so incredibly nice and helpful. I would absolutely fly to Bristol, rent from Enterprise, drive an Aygo, and interact with Allen again! The initial rental experience may have been a bit of a rocky start (entirely on my end), but it kicked off a trip that was pure happiness.


But more about that next time.