The Diamond Anniversary tour of Cornwall's beautiful beaches which are in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty started on the Roseland, at Porthcurnick. A giant Chartres style labyrinth was built, with 11 circuits, a path of almost 400m to the centre! The team included a group from Truro Methodist Church. 30 people walked round the labyrinth, taking time to journey to the centre and return with burdens left behind and hope renewed. Rubbish is used as a metaphor for negative experiences, so the team clean the beach of rubbish, leaving the beach renewed as well.
There are eleven of these coastal AONBs in Cornwall. Following the launch on World Labyrinth Day, 4th May, at Porthcurnick, the plan is to build as many in each of the other AONBs throughout the summer as possible.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The idea is to celebrate this anniversary by creating a beach labyrinth from the sand in each of the beautiful coastal AONB’s in Cornwall.
WHAT’S THE BACKGROUND?
People have been walking labyrinths for centuries in many cultures and are designed to take you on a symbolic journey. They were popular as a tool for contemplation in the Christian Monastic tradition in the Middle Ages and the earliest Christian labyrinth so far discovered goes back to 325 AD in Algeria. In Cornwall there are ancient labyrinths carved into the wall along the Rocky Valley near Tintagel, and a turf and stone labyrinth on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly dates back until at least the 1800s.
The aim would be to work alongside local church and community groups to create each labyrinth in the sand and then facilitate them for use for members of the general public for the rest of the day. Before going freelance, Andrew created over 90 public beach labyrinths over the last few years across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in more than 20 locations (plus a few other labyrinth creations in such places as Jersey, Southport, France and Oregon, USA). To date more than 7,000 people have walked these labyrinths, with many testifying as to how profound and helpful they found the experience.
WHAT’S THE MONEY FOR?
This is a project run by Andrew Nicholson, formerly Methodist Youth Worker and now of Random Acts of Wonder. Funding covers my time in planning each labyrinth, recruiting volunteers, building it on the day and facilitating their use throughout the day. The more that is raised, the more labyrinths will be built.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
I use rubbish on the beach as a metaphor to represent issues or concerns that people have. A (safe) item is carried by each participant and they have the opportunity to reflect as they meander through the switchback path to the centre of the labyrinth. At the centre a driftwood cross is made, and participants are invited to let go of their rubbish, symbolically releasing their concerns and issues too. On the way back out, participants are invited to take a stone with them to think of something solid and secure they might like to do or change in their lives.
It's an activity that almost everyone can relate to. I frequently find that children and family groups enjoy the experience as well as individuals or older people, it’s truly an inter-generational event that can be appreciated on many different levels – it’s thought provoking, prayerful and calming, but it’s also enjoyable and fun to negotiate. There is also an important environmental aspect, in that all the rubbish used found on the beach is all bagged up and disposed of safely and appropriately at the end of each session – so that’s over 7,000 pieces of rubbish so far that are not now littering our beaches or contaminating the oceans as a result of Beach Labyrinth.
I have a number of different designs that I’ve used, which I intend to use though this programme of AONB labyrinths this summer.
If you pledge £20 to the project I will send you a bespoke Beach Labyrinth wristband (complete with mini labyrinth design)– unique to the Beach Labyrinth project!
If you pledge £50 to the project as well as a Beach Labyrinth wristband, you will be invited to come and participate in a Beach Labyrinth creation at one of the beaches, or if you prefer, receive a picture postcard of a Beach labyrinth.
Largest donation (over £50) gets a Beach Labyrinth T-shirt, complete with labyrinth design on the back and Beach Labyrinth written on the front (silver writing on black).