Anyone who’s not discovered the Walled Garden at Bedfords Park (whether they are interested in yoga or not) should take the time to visit this little gem within the gem that is Bedfords Park itself. Once the grounds of one of many large homes dotted around the country housing privileged families and their servants, Bedfords Park is now a public space to be enjoyed by everyone.
Situated at the highest point of Havering it’s much easier to find than you might think. From Gallows Corner, drive up Straight Road, cross the mini-roundabout and continue up the Broxhill Road towards St Francis Hospice and Havering-atte-Bower. The park is on the left, just before you get to the hospice (on the opposite side). There’s plenty of free parking in the Visitors’ Centre car park, plus overflow spaces.
The Walled Garden is actually behind the Visitors’ Centre (the Visitors’ Centre is built
where the house originally was and the Walled Garden supplied the house with fresh veg) but the easiest way to get to it is to walk back through the entrance to the car park (opposite direction to the Visitors’ Centre), turn right and walk about 100 yards. The Garden is the second pathway on the left where you find bunting on the trees (not sure exactly why the bunting is there!) and a big wooden gate which is sometimes open but other times has a smaller door open within it. The Walled Garden is always open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays when volunteers are working there and the general public are welcome to come in and look around.
We’ve been enjoying yoga classes in the garden’s classroom for a year now although we took a break between January and April due to a flood in the room. It’s been lovely to practise yoga so close to nature and, as the seasons change again, we have the added opportunity to walk the newly laid out labyrinth.
The labyrinth is still very much in its early stages but we’ve already started to walk it.
Steve and Kirsty of Clear Village, the project responsible for developing the Walled Garden, have exciting plans for the labyrinth and it’s amazing watching what has been a vegetable patch up till recently transform into Celtic pathways. Steve and his team of volunteers are always happy to stop and explain what they’re doing. I gather the original plan was to mark the pathway with upturned wine bottles (an undertaking I was looking forward to enthusiastically contributing to!) but, unfortunately, it was logistically impractical so the plan now is to use conventional edging which can be laid more quickly. The pathways will be weather proofed eventually (hopefully they will be able to get a grant for the work) so mud won’t be a problem and it will be lined with a wide variety of herbs. A willow entrance will take you into the labyrinth.
It all sounds magical to me!
At the moment the labyrinth is very basic – really just circles with stakes and string marking it out but it’s easy enough to walk. Just take a moment at the “entrance” (OK so we have to walk over for the vegetable plot to get there but it will be clear once the willow arrives) to set your intention and then start to walk – mindfully around the pathways. As long as you take care not to step over the string you can’t go wrong. A labyrinth has one path in and you return the same way. At the centre you pause, take stock and turn to walk out with an entirely different perspective. It’s a fantastic way to work through issues and concerns and there are many practices that can be used in a variety of ways following Christian and other traditions. Pathways are low rather than hedged as the idea is not to confuse the brain but to clear it. I understand that the main difference between a maze and a labyrinth is one is designed for you to get “lost” and the other for you to “find yourself”.
We practised Energy Block 3 before our walk this week – a powerful Dru sequence designed to send your hopes and intentions into the future, overcoming any obstacles you might feel that are in the way. After the walk we took a few moments to share our thoughts on the experience and finished back in the classroom with a seated meditation.
The plan is to continue classes on Thursday mornings throughout the winter and make full use of the garden and labyrinth. All are welcome to join us any Thursday at 11am. The class is suitable for all abilities – during the winter most of the sequences will be either standing or using chairs so people who find getting up and down from the ground difficult will have no difficulty with this class and complete beginners are always made welcome. It is free for garden volunteers and £7 weekly for everyone else (first class £5). The classroom is always warm and cosy but it’s best to wear warm layers and strong shoes for when we’re outside. We practised our energy block sequence on the patio outside this week but in the future we may be using one of the greenhouses. This class might not be for everyone but, if you enjoy connecting with nature, I can promise you a treat.
Coffee, cake and chat afterwards in the Visitors’ Centre with views across London as far as the O2 for those who want to stay on. And on your way back to the car take a look at the magnificent herd of red deer.
To pick your own pumpkin for Halloween, give Kirsty a call on 078 645 64504 and make an appointment. Kirsty is also your point of contact if you fancy helping in the garden (fresh air, exercise, the chance to learn about the labyrinth and how to grow and care for herbs (see list below) as well as FREE yoga promised to all volunteers).
For more information about labyrinths visit: https://labyrinthsociety.org/about-labyrinths