Alison Collyer: Drama on the Farm
If you were in Glastonbury anytime between about 1987 and 2004 you might have glimpsed Alison Collyer walking down the High Street. She always wore a huge straw sun hat, decorated with country flowers. Her long white hair had purple and blue streaks, matching her dramatic eye shadow. In her purple coat, and always trundling her shopping trolley behind her, she was one of Glastonbury’s colourful characters. Most people probably saw little more than that, not knowing what a key role she once played in the turbulent time of the travellers.
Born in 1922, she had a conventional middle class background. Then in the 1970s, the hippie revolution got to her. She decided to sell her Surrey farm and buy one in Glastonbury. This would be more than just a farm; it would also be a spiritual centre.
The Green Trust helped her find and buy a farm just outside Glastonbury. Their aim was like her own; ‘to establish a semi-monastic, Christian and land-based community’. She called her new farm Greenlands.
By then she was treating her cows as pets, keeping them only for their milk. People were welcome either to camp in her orchard in exchange for a tiny rent, or to help around the farm.
“I didn’t invite anyone to come to the farm , but people just materialised,” she said. “Most were very helpful and we were truly glad to have them there. We were a close-knit community before the invasion. Fifteen to twenty-five people lived there in various caravans, sheds and outbuildings. They were young and didn’t mind. They loved working with the animals.”
Then came the invasion. By the 1980s, many hippies had become ‘travellers’, living in old vans. Trying to go beyond the conventional world, they ended up camping on its doorstep; much to its annoyance. That, plus some of their radical political aims, created a bombshell that was just waiting to be lit.
It exploded in 1985 with the Battle of the Beanfield. The police launched a violent attack on a traveler camp near Stonehenge, striking men, women and children indiscriminately. The frightened refugees fled to Greenlands, where they’d heard they’d be safe and welcome.
Although the orchard was getting crowded by then, Alison stayed committed to her principles and would not turn anyone away. If things had simmered down after that, the whole issue might have melted away. Greenlands could still have been the happy hippie farm that Alison originally intended.
But others kept coming, including the Peace Convoy and Rainbow Peace Village. Many of them had just been evicted from their occupation of Molesworth cruise missile base. Once they had settled in at Greenlands, they proclaimed it to be the Free State of Avalonia.
Alison Collyer originally bought Greenlands Farm to foster a small-scale spiritually centred community. This began well, but by autumn 1985 the idyll was falling apart. Huge numbers of travellers began to move onto the farm, and this showed no sign of slowing down.
The police mounted a surveillance operation, starting to hang around all Greenlands’ gateways. Feeling overwhelmed by then, Alison asked the police to please stop any more people coming in. They ignored this request. Meanwhile, the local press was busily whipping up peoples’ worst fears, with shouty headlines about how the hippie invasion would bring drugs, dirt and disease.
One incensed member of the public bought a truck he dubbed the Hippy Wrecker, declaring that he was going to tow all the traveller vans out of Glastonbury. This turned out to be a damp squib. Alison asked him to tow away two broken-down old caravans, but they were firmly stuck in the frost. Local authorities doubted the legality of the Hippy Wrecker anyway, so that was the end of that.
Mendip District Council then played a trump card. They served Alison notice to clear her land in 28 days or face proceedings in the High Court. If the travellers stayed after that, they would be responsible for sending a kindly 62-year-old woman to prison. This worked. By January 1986, they had all left. However, the drama took its toll on Alison, who by then had pleurisy. At the same time, she also had another kind of battle going on.
“Alison had set up an arrangement with the Paddington Farm Trust from London,” said Barry Taylor. “This trust provided poor children with holidays in the country. Things went quite well for a while. Then the trust arranged to have a financial share in the farm. Eventually this led to them virtually taking over. In the end, they evicted Alison.”
On Friday 13th 1987, Paddington Farm Trust took over Greenlands. On the same day, Alison’s last ten cows disappeared. As a gift of appreciation for Alison, one of the people who had once helped to look after them did woodcuts of each individual cow.
Paddington Farm is now an ecological retreat centre, specialising in courses and activities to teach children about nature.
Alison ended up in suburban Glastonbury. She wasn’t happy about that, saying, “I didn’t come to live in a council flat in a bigoted little town. I came to own a farm.”
In 2004 she departed this life. One reason for a speedy reincarnation is to complete a thwarted purpose. Naturally, the mission of one lifetime can never be exactly the same in a later life. However, its deeper intention will remain within that person’s soul. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alison returns to continue her inner purpose, maybe even right here in Glastonbury.
This article was written by Atasha Fyfe and first appeared in Glastonbury's 'Oracle' magazine in October 2016.
Atasha Fyfe is a Past Life Therapist and the author of 'Past Lives' and 'Magic Past Lives', published by Hay House. You can contact her through her website: Past Lives Glastonbury.
- See 'Free State' by Bruce Garrard.
- See Biggerhouse Productions' YouTube video of Alison Collyer, directed by Stephen Clarke.
Return to The New Avalonians page.
Alison Collyer Author: Atasha Fyfe 20-Oct-2016 Edited: DP 21-Oct-2016