May – Labyrinths in the garden and beyond

I did two things this week that I don’t do often enough. I walked round the garden first thing and, on another morning en route to work, I took a detour to the Troy maze up near Dalby.

Dalby Turf or Troy Maze is just one of eight turf mazes situated in the countryside around Britain. The origins of the maze itself and the pattern used are obscure and shrouded in mystery.

Labyrinths and mazes are often associated with the idea of pilgrimage and penance, but the maze at Dalby has another explanation. It was said that dead souls were trapped at the centre of the labyrinth, unable to escape, although they could be approached by those of the living in need of advice.

The reason for waxing lyrical about the Troy maze is that we have just had a turf labyrinth cut into the Millennium lawn here at the garden. Tony cut it for the second time yesterday and the paths are really starting to look defined.

The labyrinth itself was created and cut by Peter Clark to a traditional design first appearing in Christian literature from the 4th century onwards. It is designed to be walked slowly and thoughtfully and preferably in bare feet.

I did it myself the other morning and I very quickly fell under its spell. The act of slow walking seems to clear the mind. Whilst our labyrinth isn’t large (12m/36ft across), on several occasions I found myself at a point on the path with no idea of how I’d got there.

As a means of shedding stress even for a short while, it has a lot to recommend it. It’s just one of the ways in which the garden wraps you in its spell, getting you to slow down and take some time away from the hurly burly of life and all it throws at us.

My twelfth anniversary of starting work here flew by at the end of last month. I didn’t even notice until I got messages congratulating me on length of service from various friends and colleagues.

I do feel that, given my length of time working here, I can truly attest to the special feeling of calm the garden gives its visitors. I don’t know whether it is the fact of the walls themselves, enclosing the space to give a feeling of security. Or the beautiful views across the garden to Helmsley Castle and across the parkland of Duncombe Park. Or simply the beautiful flowers and shrubs, the panoply of colour and the changing picture every day as the garden waxes and wanes over the course of the year.

Whichever way, to be in the garden is ‘very heaven’ as the beds start to fill and the colours of spring ripple through each bed.

The Iris Border has really started to bloom this week, the peonies are opening up and The Iris Border has really started to bloom this week, the peonies are opening up and (the bit I am most proud of), after a prodigious prune through the winter, the Laburnum Arch is looking beautiful.

It’s not quite in the full shape I want, but I can admit now that it is in bloom, that I was really quite nervous how it would look. I was terrified I had taken too much off and that I’d given it too much to do in growing and blossoming.

I shouldn’t have worried, it is covered in blossom and looking glorious. The fruit trees have tiny fruits developing and the alliums are out. The garden is in full swing. Come and see us soon.




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