Compton and Guildford

On another day we visited the Watts Memorial Chapel in Compton. This highly elaborate structure was built in 1896 by an artist, Mary Watts and many other people of the village. It is highly ornate inside and out, in what is said to be ‘a concoction of art nouveau, Celtic Revival, Terracotta relief, Romanesque and Egyptian styles (which just about covers everybody!). We knew there were meant to be five labyrinths in total. We eventually found one carved in the altar and four around the outside. It was more like a game of Spotto than a labyrinth encounter but worth a visit nevertheless.

In Guildford there is a ‘Seeds of Hope’ children’s garden behind the Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit. It is a garden designed to help children through experiences of loss such as death, divorce, adoption, change of school etc. In the garden, ‘change, loss and death can all be seen as a natural part of the cycle of life’. The labyrinth, a beautiful little classic seven circuit, is found in the Winter Garden, the Garden of Thought, which represents the early days when someone has died or moved away when life is hard and there are no signs of colour. As I walked this labyrinth I gave thanks for my own children and the richness and love they have brought to my life as well as acknowledging them for the losses they have suffered.

In the Summer Garden is the Seeds of Hope sculpture. The whole area is a place of peace and beauty where I was tempted to just sit in the shade, read a book and soak up the restful atmosphere.

St Joseph’s

St Joseph’s Specialist School and College, Cranleigh

A place we were very privileged to visit was St Joseph’s Specialist School and College, Cranleigh which provides schooling for learners with a range of learning difficulties. Mandy did a great job of lining up the opportunity to visit and we were given the chance to walk the beautiful grass labyrinth with lichen covered little benches and a sculpture of two hares in the centre that was placed as a memorial to a school staff member.

Among the grasses making up the lines  I noticed the occasional self seeded oak sapling and the thought occurred to me: growth wants to happen. Everywhere things spring to life, invited or otherwise. You actually have to work hard to stop growth from happening. Some humans, myself included, seek growth and change and improvement and transformation. What this labyrinth showed me is that growth doesn’t have to involve great effort. We just have to allow it to happen ( and sometimes do some weeding and pruning!)

Beaconsfield

After a hot and arduous drive up the M25 we reached Beaconsfield with the intention of walking the labyrinth in Chiltern Woodland Burial Park. The woodland was mostly beautiful though some areas were badly overgrown by blackberry bushes (maybe it’s just Australian eyes that see that as a problem?). Carved wooden memorials were scattered among the trees. The labyrinth itself was outlined by wooden planks. Scattered among the paths were the stumps of felled trees, small saplings in growth tubes as well as larger young trees which in parts were meeting across the path. It was more like a bush bash than a labyrinth walk. I really like the idea of a natural burial ground which is free of monuments and headstones and where people are buried or have their ashes spread with minimal impact on the meadow or woodland. I believe a labyrinth is a very apt inclusion in such an environment however, in this particular setting, it was more calming and settling walking the woodland paths than the labyrinth.

One thing I am learning as I visit many labyrinths is how much upkeep can be required depending on the nature of the materials they are made from. Any that are made from living, growing elements such as grass or hedges can quickly become obliterated if not maintained. People often plant hedges or trees within the lines of labyrinths that quickly become too large and crowd out the path that they were intended to demarcate. Also the hedges can grow very high generating the feeling that you’re walking a maze rather than a labyrinth because you can’t see the overall pattern.