THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - from The Friend 21.8.14:

A gift of a week?

A little while ago over 2000 creative, thoughtful, enquiring, campaigning Quakers travelled to Bath in search of inspiration. You may have been one of them and I hope you found everything you were looking for. You may even have come across the Quaker Legacy Garden. Out on a limb, at one end of the campus on a rather drab L shaped patch of grass, something wonderful began to take shape. During the planning of Yearly Meeting Gathering 2014 an offer was made to gift this little plot to Quakers to see what could be made of it. The Quaker Gardens Project set about gathering Friends to transform it into a peaceful garden reflective of the Quaker way and, when the whole YMG caravan moved on, give it back as a lasting gift to University staff and students. But could this really work...all in a week? We hoped so!

Inspiration for the design came from reflecting on George Fox’s journeys across the country on foot. He would have found the approaches to our garden familiar; an oak gate post and wall of local stone at one end wih a woven hurdle made from coppiced hazel at the other. Whichever way you enter the boundaries may seem solid and traditional but, as with all gardens, it’s what happens within the boundaries that matters. The traditional hedgerow with fruit trees now lovingly pruned, banks down into a serpentine border of scented insect and bee friendly shrubs, mostly locally grown, giving year round interest. Low growing dry borders lend colour and texture demanding little moisture or maintenance. At the heart of the Legacy Garden is a Q shaped seating area of local stone- filled steel gabion cages topped with green oak plank seating. The central focus; a bee friendly thyme carpet is spread out at your feet- a living, growing tapestry. Rising up from the tail of the Q is a green oak, hand carved way-sign; the testimonies inscribed on the upright and the directional message “ Heart+ Mind Prepared “which points the way from this gathered garden out into the world. A university is a place of discovery, change and growth and, in humans as well as plants, growth points are vulnerable. How valuable then such a peaceful, holding outdoor place becomes for passers-by in our pressured and stressful modern world?

What began as a gift from south west Friends hosting the gathering, grew through the week. At our morning quiet time “Still in the Garden” we ran out of chairs! Many Friends joined our core team taking up tools to lend a hand for an hour or more between sessions. We needed a tender hand to help us get up off our knees at times but were sustained by a constant stream of tea and biscuits- almost a cafe in the garden; a place where Friends, having found it, simply wanted to sit. Funds donated for plants and materials meant we covered our costs, and the real gifts were the inspirational people taking part, meeting like minds and holding conversations unlikely to take place anywhere else- it’s not just about the gardening -it’s about nurturing our growing spirit as Friends. By the end of the week; new skills acquired, new Friends made, there was a great sense of - “ We made it”! It was a blessed time- a gift of a week- given and received. The Legacy Garden is there open to all, to revisit whenever you pass- the latest in a valuable chain of Quaker places. Why not return, take a cutting or seeds- (literally or metaphorically) and encourage your Area Meeting to invest in the Spirit present and growing in our Gardens and Burial Grounds across the land?

QGP c/o Norwich Quaker Meeting House, Upper Goat Lane, Norwich NR2 1EQ | 07899 754767 | info@quakergardensproject.org.uk