My last two ports in England before departure were Birmingham and Oxford.
I attended a labyrinth workshop conducted by Jan Sellers at Woodforde Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. There, I got to mingle for a day with other labyrinth lovers and learn from Jan in her gentleness and wisdom. I also learned more about the Quakers and the dilemmas that their their pacifist philosophy raised during World War One. They housed conscientious objectors at Woodforde for the duration of the war, serving soldiers as well as Germans who found themselves stranded in England. I also learnt of Elizabeth Fry who visited every ship, taking women and children to Botany Bay: 100 ships, 12,000 people in total. The Quakers helped improve shipboard conditions and the way the women were transported to the docks. . Schools and sewing groups were started for those who wanted them.
The Woodforde property used to belong to the Cadbury family,who were also Quakers, who built Bourneville village to house their factory workers – so it’s not just a brand of cocoa!
A beautiful and interesting labyrinth in Birmingham is located in Kings Heath All Saints Village Square. It is an unusual design, reflecting one of the church windows. It includes mosaics, poetry and quotes throughout its course. This labyrinth is positioned in the middle of a public place that people were wandering over and quite oblivious to. It was in stark contrast to the grass labyrinth in the grounds of the retreat centre. I found it quite entrancing. A lot of very thoughtful work had gone into its creation.
Near Oxford I stayed at Troy Farm a 16th century farmhouse where there is one of England’s few remaining ancient turf labyrinths. It also is thought to date back to sixteenth century and is the only known 15 circuit labyrinth in Britain.