Turf Maze - Saffron Walden Common

Saffron Walden Mazes

Hedge Maze

Work to create the delightful Victorian garden at Bridge End commenced in the late 18th Century and was completed in the mid–19th Century. The Garden was started by Atkinson Francis Gibson of Saffron Walden and continued by his son Francis.

By 1949 the maze had fallen into neglect and by 1983, it was little more than an overgrown spinney. In 1984, a programme of research and restoration was put in hand by Uttlesford District Council.

The site was cleared in February 1984 and then surveyed. The original maze design was marked out later that year. The paths were reconstructed, together with the banks which were subsequently planted in the December with over 1000 yews. At midday on 13th July 1991, the maze was officially reopened by Mr. Anthony Fry, great-great grandson of Francis Gibson for the enjoyment and delight of future generations.

Turf Maze (Labyrinth)

The turf maze (Labyrinth) on the Common is of great antiquity and importance. It is the largest example of its type in the world and is one of the eight surviving turf mazes in England. Its design is basically circular with 17 circuits. Four bastions at equal distances around the circumference give the maze a total diameter of 132 feet. It is enclosed by a bank and ditch, the overall dimensions of which are 150 x 110 feet. The pathway follows grooves cut in the turf and approaches a mile in length.

Restorations of this maze are recorded for 1826, 1841, 1859, 1887 and 1911, when the pathway was laid with bricks on edge. The most recent recutting was completed in 1979. On this occasion the bricks were relaid flat.

Jubilee Garden Maze

Centrally located in Jubilee Garden bandstand, the maze is made out of contrasting paving blocks laid over the existing concrete slab, which will permit its continued use for music performances and art exhibitions. Using the 100x 200mm module of a standard sand-bedded block, the local designer, John Ready, was able to devise a labyrinth of nine turns within the overall width of 6.1metres, which winds towards and around the centre, before moving outwards again to finish adjacent to the starting point. The overall length of the path is over 100 yards and its various turns reveal attractive views over the garden, with the soaring spire of St Mary’s Church beyond. The central octagon of the maze is decorated with a sleeping hare of semi-abstract design.

Swan Meadow Maze

Swan Meadow Maze
The town’s most recent open-air maze was opened in August 2016 by world expert Jeff Saward to mark the beginning of the third Saffron Walden Maze Festival and, appropriately for a gateway to the town’s historic attractions, its internal layout announces that ‘Saffron Walden Amazes’.

The use of reconstituted stone paving for the walkways, dark blue slate pieces to infill the subdivisions, woven willow for the fence enclosure and external ground cover planting of pachysandra and miniature daffodils is intended to complement the natural surroundings of willow trees and the nearby duck pond.

Miniature finger labyrinths and mazes are set into the tops of pre-cast planters featuring a Greek key design and provide the opportunity of added interaction for young children as they move around the turns of the maze’s pathways. There are two entry/exit points from the adjacent public footpath, each of which link to the north-east corner where a large angular head overlooks the whole installation.

At the time of publishing (July 2018), this maze is being re-designed and will re-open soon.

Michael Ayrton's Sun Maze Sculpture

Michael Ayrton's Sun Maze Sculpture

Michael Ayrton the sculptor, broadcaster and writer, whose work can be seen at The Fry Art Gallery, lived near Saffron Walden and is buried at Hadstock. He visited Greece in 1958 and became pre-occupied with the legends of Daedalus and Icarus and the imagery based around the Minotaur and the maze. 'Such a total maze each man makes round himself and each is different from any other,' Michael Ayrton, 1967.

www.fryartgallery.org 

Saffron Walden Maze Festival

Saffron Walden Maze Festival
Saffron Walden is alone in the UK in having two historic mazes – the ancient turf labyrinth on the Common and the Victorian hedge maze in Bridge End Garden. To celebrate Saffron Walden’s unique maze culture and explore man’s fascination with mazes and labyrinths over the centuries, Saffron Walden Initiative organised the first Maze Festival in August 2011.

It was such a success that a second Maze Festival was held in 2013, with mazes and maze challenges all over the town. It was during the 2013 festival that a third permanent maze was created in the bandstand in Jubilee Gardens. A third Maze Festival was held in 2016, and a new "Saffron Walden Amazes" permanent maze was installed at the pedestrian approach to the Long Stay car park at Swan Meadow.

The next Maze Festival is likely to be in August 2019. Details will be published nearer the time on

www.saffronwaldenmazefestival.co.uk 

Download the Saffron Walden Mazes Leaflet here