Back in England, exploring labyrinths in Bath and Sussex

Bath

The first labyrinth that I hunted down on my return to England was at the top of Solsbury Hill near Batheaston. As with most of the labyrinths so far, I found it difficult to locate. All I knew was that it was built in protest when the construction of the A46 was proposed and that it was on the edge of the common overlooking the freeway (I guess the protest came to naught). I headed along the public footpath in a direction that I hoped gave a view of the road.

It didn’t look like many people had ventured this way in a while and the patches of nettle and overgrown shrubbery felt quite ominous. It had the air of the type of setting where murder victims are often found in English detective dramas.

I was about to give up when I decided to head for higher ground before leaving and there she was. I think it’s the first labyrinth I’ve sworn at on finally discovering its location. It was down from the common on top of the hill and up from the public footpath with a magnificent view over Bath and the surrounding countryside. The vista and the wind were invigorating, along with the victory of discovery. As I walked this little labyrinth, talking to it along the way (more friendly tone by now) the RAF Red Arrows, the British airforce’s crack demonstration pilots in their red fighter jets flew overhead in perfect formation. They were gone almost before they arrived but they gave me an incredible thrill!!

 

Sussex

I have just spent a week with the amazing Mandy Humphrey: paediatric physio, judo champion, Zero Balancing therapist and all round wonderful human being. Together we have travelled all around the Sussex countryside (and beyond) visiting labyrinths of all shapes, sizes and descriptions including one in a public park in Hove that looks like a giant fingerprint.

Wakehurst Place, an offshoot of Kew Gardens has the Millenium World Seed Bank where they are gathering, drying and storing seeds from all over the world with the intention of conserving 25% of the world’s plant species by 2020. They have 2 labyrinths: one a finger labyrinth called Unexpected Endings that is carved into the trunk of an ancient oak that fell in a huge storm in 1987.The labyrinth pattern is disappearing as the wood ages and crumbles.

Their walkable labyrinth, Adventurous Journeys, is based on the Fibonacci spiral pattern of the Scot’s pine cone. The 12,000 bricks that went into its making (stated to be more than the number required to build the average house) were all made locally. It was a unique sensation to spiral around the slight elevation to reach the centre.

The labyrinth in the grounds of St John the Evangelist church in Copthorn (image at top of page) felt very special to me. It’s a relatively small and simple design with a striking glass sculpture in the centre. It is intended as a space for contemplation and the cremated remains of parishioners are interred within the grass paths. We walked it in the softening evening light as children were being collected from the day care centre behind. It had a very nurturing and deeply peaceful feel to it.