Saturday’s Knitted Maze at the Saffron Walden Maze Festival gave way to more traditional activities on Sunday.
Having spent much of Saturday afternoon researching historical documents about the turf maze and the way it has been maintained and used over the centuries, we were ready to see the historic racing reenacted, twenty-first century style. The four corners (sometimes called the bastions), were marked with their traditional designations of the large towns that lie in those approximate directions: Chelmsford, Stortford, Cambridge and Newmarket, with the centre marked as Waterloo. Following the rules recorded in 1816, racers of all ages were given time cards before they set out at one-minute intervals to navigate the path, nearly a mile in length. Of course, everyone wanted to beat the previous record of 8-1/2 minutes which was set in 1980 after the latest restoration and race reenactment.
Recognize this contestant?
He didn’t win. According to him, it’s harder than you might think even though his time of 9 minutes 38 seconds was for a while the leading time for the seniors category! And I must say, he does seem inordinately proud of the participation medal he was awarded. The win went to a long-legged young man, Mike Sharp, who deserved to win with his mind boggling time of just 7 minutes 28 seconds. He was so delighted that I think we may have managed to convert a new maze aficionado.
I didn’t race. I was in a quiet mood, feeling quite pensive, so I watched the eager contingent of racers from the bank overlooking the maze and just daydreamed. And knitted. For hours. And a funny thing happened… without my setting foot on its pathways, the labyrinth still managed to work its magic on me so that by the time I left, I felt calmed, cheered, inspired. My friend Emily reminds me that sitting by the well can be as restorative as being in the water.
And so it was.