A Trip to The Chalice Well Garden

White Tulip at The Chalice Well Garden

The Tilly Greenway books are unusual in that whilst they weave in and out of fantasy, the action takes place in the “real world”. Tilly and Zack, the main protagonists of our tale, visit lots of interesting sites in Wales and England in Book One, including Skenfrith Castle, King Arthur’s Stone, Avebury, Silbury Hill and Glastonbury.

One of these sites is the Chalice Well Garden. Tucked into the lee of the famous Tor at Glastonbury, the garden is a place of tranquility, even in today’s busy world. With the Red Well springing up inside the garden and the White Well just outside its walls, pilgrims have journeyed to this spot for many hundreds – probably thousands – of years. (Red and White having long been colours of sacredness).

Here is a picture of the Red Spring. You can see how the water has stained the stones red.

The Red Spring at the Chalice Well Garden

Here it is in close-up. It looks uncannily like dragon-skin to me, which is appropriate when you know that Tilly and Zack arrive at the gardens riding on a pair of dragons!

Water in the Red Spring at the Chalice Well Garden

Recently I was contacted by a twelve year old girl called Zoe who emailed me from Australia to let me know that she had just finished reading Watchers and it is now her “favourite book”. You can imagine how wonderful it was to hear that! Zoe also told me that she and her parents were about to visit England for a week and asked if we could meet. I picked Glastonbury as the perfect spot.

The George and Pilgrim, Glastonbury

After lunch in the George and Pilgrim (the oldest inn in the country, which also features in Watchers) we sauntered around some of the crystal shops before walking to the Chalice Well Garden, a scene of great importance in Tilly and Zack’s first adventure.

From the Chalice Well Garden you can look up at the Tor. Here is Zoe in the garden, with the Tor in the background.

Zoe in the Chalice Well Garden with the Tor behind her

Some of you will not have read the book yet so I shan’t spoil the story for you by telling you what happens there, but it was a lot of fun to visit the place with Zoe and to share some of the real locations that she had, until then, only read about in the story.

Here we are, standing under one of the garden’s ancient yew trees.

One significant change had taken place since I had last visited the Garden: the Holy Thorn (said to be grown from a sprig of hawthorn brought to Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea) which magically blossomed at Christmas as well as during the summer, had blown down during the storms.

There are other Holy Thorns in the area, but it was still a shock to see the empty ground where the old tree had once grown. Tilly’s tale will be one of the many things that pays tribute to the now-lost tree.

At this time of year there was just a smattering of colour in the garden, but it still holds a peculiar magic. We’ll revisit it again sometime, but for now I’ll leave you with some of the images from that day, which was a special one for me.

Crab Apple at the Chalice Well Garden

More Crab Apple Blossom

With Zoe and her Mum, Nicky

Chalice Well Angel

Chalice Cowslips

Close-up of the Red Spring

My thanks and gratitude go to my friend Helen, who made the meeting with Zoe and her Mum possible and was such a star, driving into London and then all the way down to Glastonbury to bring them to the West Country. Thanks Helen! It was lovely to see both you and Ella again. 🙂

Myth and Magic – Fact or Fiction?

Silbury Hill features in Watchers as a place where dragons slumber....

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that so many myths and legends (and the lore within them) are similar in different countries. Take the story of the Deluge and the Flood. This tale is repeated in pretty much every continent. Huge rains are on the way. God tells one of the humans to build an ark, which he does. He and his family then escape the ensuing flood, whilst the rest of mankind is drowned. In the bible the human is Noah, in older texts he is Ziusudra: but the tale is almost identical. It seems unlikely that such a wide-spread story is just a myth. Far more likely that it records an actual event.

The tale of Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys also begins with a flood-warning, but this flood is not a real one. It is part of an orchestrated plan by those in power to micro-chip the population. Is such a plan pure fantasy? Perhaps, but the possibility is there, which is why it kicks off our tale.

Magic and myth are interwoven with the real world throughout the Tilly Greenway saga. Although many of the characters might have stepped from the pages of fantasy (such as Herne or the Dragons) the locations of the tale are all places you can find on a map. This was quite deliberate and, I hope, makes the books very different from other fantasies in which the reader travels through a wholly fictitious world.

Herne as he appears in the Tilly Greenway stories

I chose to write this way for several reasons. One is that I wanted to delve into the hidden history of our planet. In this way, the stories form a true grail quest, an exploration of what has been going on in the real world (and still is) in order to keep us from finding out the truth about our past. There are some eyebrow-raising revelations to come…

Having said that, the books are not allegory. Like Tolkien, I am not a fan of allegory. I prefer history – both real and imagined. In order to give the tale authenticity I’ve created a history of our race that goes back well beyond the Ice Age (as you’ll discover in later books). For this I’ve used a combination of sources, including some of the Celtic poems (many of which were written in a deliberately obscure way in order to avoid being edited) and the tales told on Sumerian tablets some seven thousand years ago.

There are hundreds of thousands of these clay tablets, most of them yet to be translated. My guess is that, as with the Qumran scrolls, many will never see the light of day (not for public consumption anyway). An interesting fact is that the majority of them are/were buried in the sands of Iraq and Iran, so you can see how relevant to today our tale really is.

But the main reason for mixing fact with fiction and magic with reality is that I believe magic is very much alive; that the world we live in is just as fantastical and full of wonder as any that I might create. Getting out into nature (and way from the screens that encroach ever more closely on our lives!) is magic enough for me, which is why Tilly and Zack spend so much time “outdoors”.

Take this photo that one of my daughters took over the Easter weekend. I love it! So much beauty. So much mystery. Who knows, perhaps each droplet of water is a universe of its own, with countless tiny lives being played out within it?

And I wonder what was going through this ladybird’s mind as it scaled the huge peak of this old leaf…

I hoped too that some people might feel inspired to visit some of the locations that Tilly and Zack find themselves in during their quest. So you can imagine how pleased I was to hear recently from a reader who had taken his sons to see Silbury Hill and the Avebury Stones after they had read Watchers.

Avebury Stones

Another wrote to me to say that she had climbed Glastonbury Tor and visited the Chalice Well Gardens because she had had enjoyed Tilly’s adventures so much. Wonderful!

The Chalice Well Gardens

The Vesica Pisces pool in the Chalice Well Gardens

Why does visiting such places make a difference? Well, for me, seeing them, smelling them, reaching out to touch them means that we re-connect with all they have to offer us, each one with its unique atmosphere, all of them with secrets that they whisper to us from across the long years.

They connect us with our past, inform our present and help us look to the future too. Wrapped in the mystery of myth and legend, they are very real gateways to knowing just a little bit more of the real magic that weaves its way through the world around us…

Next time, we’ll visit Skenfrith Castle, another of the real-life locations in our tale!

Sacred Sites in the Tilly Greenway Saga

Glastonbury Tor by Meraylah Allwood

The world of Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys is not like any other. Yes, it is a tale of fantasy and magic, but whilst there are mythical creatures and others that you might think are “made up”, the action takes place in the real world and is very much of our time. I wanted to contrast the two worlds – real and imagined – but also to link them through actual places that you can visit.

Myths and legends often grow up around a particular place because that place holds some unique resonance for people. Often this resonance is to do with magnetic lines under the earth or water courses of some sort, which is why so many sacred sites are either where two leylines cross, or on the bend or a river or stream. The names of these places still refer back to stories that are now only part of folklore, but which used to be regarded as true.

For instance, there is a place in Wales called Dol-y-Carrog, which means “Hill of the Monster” in Welsh, so I used this as one of the locations where the last 12 dragons are lying in wait for the time when the world is facing imminent tragedy, when they will be woken so that they can fly to the rescue!

Another resting place for one of the dragons is Silbury Hill, which (in the story) is named after a dragon called Yggdrasil, the Ash Tree Dragon. Yggdrasil is sleeping soundly beneath the ancient dome of Silbury Hill, which used to be called “Yggdrasil-Bury-Hill” as a result, but which in time has been abbreviated to “Silbury Hill”. Of course, this is pure fiction on my part – but the fact is that Silbury Hill and the Stones of Avebury DO align with the constellation Draconis, or Dragon, in the night sky. On top of that, the hill itself hides a step pyramid as old as those in Sakkara in Egypt…which is important to the plot of the books.

I love this blending of an entirely imagined/fictitious world with that which is right under our noses. For me, it’s one of the things that keeps real magic very much alive and kicking.

In Book One, Watchers, Tilly and her stepbrother Zack visit a number of Sacred Sites in the UK. These include Glastonbury, The Chalice Well Gardens, Silbury Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow, Old Winchester Hill and the Avebury Stones. Part of the fun of reading the story is that you can visit these places, find out more about them, connect with sites that our ancestors regarded as special (and which many of us still do).

In the rest of the books (starting with The Hidden Hand) you’ll find out about a lot more sacred sites in different countries as the search for the mysterious ME Keys takes Tilly and Zack further afield.

I hope you enjoy visiting them as much as I do!

With best wishes,

Essi.

Find out more at:

Kindle: amazon.com

Kindle: amazon.co.uk