Festivals · Maze · Turf Labyrinth

Combining work and play, visit to Saffron Walden Labyrinth and the Maze Festival

The twists and turns of a labyrinth…. although this particular one is signposted in the village as a ‘maze’, (the distinction between maze and labyrinth being a recent separation of the two terms), the Saffron Walden Turf Maze has held its place on the village green for hundreds of years. The path is constructed of brick with turf creating the ‘walls’ of the path. At 35 square metres and a mile and a half in length, it’s not a short walk. But then its potential original purpose as a pilgrimage for Christians may explain this. After all, penitence takes time to complete.

Whilst there, I heard two children argue that one had ‘cheated’ by running straight into the centre and not following the ‘rules’ of following the path, a father and daughter walking purposefully setting out with their focus on walking the entire path to make it to the centre and a crew of people setting up to barriers for the start of a triathlon race of which the path was to form the running stage. Hearing and seeing these people, reminded me of the journey aspect of the labyrinth, its enduring and difficult nature in facing it, even if only to stride along its route towards the centre as ‘goal’.

The festival is held once every three years,combining several other of the towns features including a nearby hedge maze in the Bridge End Gardens, artwork, theatre, song and dance to celebrate all things labyrinthine and maze-esque.

My initial reason for heading down south was to attend a friend’s wedding, and, having read on the Saffron Walden Labyrinth last year was curious to see it first hand. ‘Where there’s a labyrinth I shall go….’ Having initially expected to only stay a short while, the discovery of the amount going on during the festival weekend (a lucky coincidence) left me a little disappointed I had to leave without seeing more,but that’s the way with time. All the same, an enjoyable few hours spent wandering through Saffron Walden to see various other connected things (a shop with Labyrinth and Maze themed artwork, prints and textiles, an exhibition of Michael Ayrton’s Maze and Mintaur ) left me feeling very content as well as meeting others (a fortunate coincidences of being in the right place at the right time) who explore the labyrinth through literature, history and archaeology as well as performance. I’ll be thinking over this event in the next few weeks and writing some conjectures from it, and leave you with the discovery that Alex Everard, who wrote a play especially for the event, had entitled it ‘lost and found’, and my blog name came uncannily to mind, it seems that the labyrinth conjures up this feeling in more than one mind: of being paradoxically lost and found… sometimes in the same moment.


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