Archive for the ‘Saffron Walden’ Category

Magic doesn’t always happen of its own accord… sometimes a lot of behind-the-scenes commitment and hard work goes into its creation. And such was the case with last week’s Saffron Walden Maze Festival. Make no mistake, there was plenty of serendipity as carefully constructed plans fell into place and the event took on a life of its own… but the planning was admirably careful and thorough. And at the end of it all, as we were gathering on the Common for one last time, this woman, chief instigator Barbara Wilcox, was still smiling:

The final evening found us celebrating new friendships and good memories as we munched on local delicacies like Giggly Pig sausages and Saffron Walden Ice Cream, and enjoyed a bit of silliness with Wellie Wanging contests, hay bale mazes, and fancy dress shenanigans. Even the Market Cross was gussied up for the night with recycled maze knitting!

Market Cross

One last delight awaited us as the evening shadows gathered and darkness fell. Amidst the twinkle of hundreds of tiny candles, we thanked the organizers and bid the maze goodnight…

Until we meet again!

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To my mind, there is no doubt that the labyrinth symbol invites and thrives on creativity. As always seems to happen when labyrinth enthusiasts gather and scheme, the Saffron Walden Maze Festival grew beyond its organizers’ wildest dreams as imaginations fired and ideas poured in. The week became a virtual feast of artistic endeavour and participation.

Art Exhibits

Garden Tours

And even a wandering Minotaur

As Sunday grew to a close, and people had exhausted themselves with tours, concerts, lectures, labyrinth walks, art exhibits and maze-y games of all sorts, festival goers gathered at the turf maze once more to enjoy the premier performance of  Lost and Found, a short play written by Alex Everard, especially for this event.

Lost and Found explores the past and present of Europe’s largest surviving ancient turf maze, but also the maze of life which we are all trying to find the centre of. Four people seek different things within the Turf Maze, but will they find what they are looking for, or something else entirely?

The play was impressive, hitting all the right notes… it was timely, entertaining, and well-performed by the Sheer Drop Theatre group. It was also well-researched and factually accurate, something we don’t see all that often amongst labyrinth literature. I was impressed by two things about the playwright: her enthusiasm and her commitment to clarity. It isn’t easy to  weave together the various threads of labyrinth interest without coming across as critical of one or more of the perspectives.

And amazingly, even the dicey British weather cooperated, blessing us with one of the most beautiful summer evenings of the year. What a lovely way to enjoy community and conviviality!

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Saturday’s Knitted Maze at the Saffron Walden Maze Festival gave way to more traditional activities on Sunday.

Having spent much of Saturday afternoon researching historical documents about the turf maze and the way it has been maintained and used over the centuries, we were ready to see the historic racing reenacted, twenty-first century style. The four corners (sometimes called the bastions), were marked with their traditional designations of the large towns that lie in those approximate directions: Chelmsford, Stortford, Cambridge and Newmarket, with the centre marked as Waterloo. Following the rules recorded in 1816, racers of all ages were given time cards before they set out at one-minute intervals to navigate the path, nearly a mile in length. Of course, everyone wanted to beat the previous record of 8-1/2 minutes which was set in 1980 after the latest restoration and race reenactment.

Recognize this contestant?

He didn’t win. According to him, it’s harder than you might think even though his time of 9 minutes 38 seconds was for a while the leading time for the seniors category! And I must say, he does seem inordinately proud of the participation medal he was awarded. The win went to a long-legged young man, Mike Sharp, who deserved to win with his mind boggling time of just 7 minutes 28 seconds. He was so delighted that I think we may have managed to convert a new maze aficionado.

I didn’t race. I was in a quiet mood, feeling quite pensive, so I watched the eager contingent of racers from the bank overlooking the maze and just daydreamed. And knitted. For hours. And a funny thing happened… without my setting foot on its pathways, the labyrinth still managed to work its magic on me so that by the time I left, I felt calmed, cheered, inspired. My friend Emily reminds me that sitting by the well can be as restorative as being in the water.

And so it was.

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