Wednesday, 17 January 2018
IN a couple of weeks the brilliant jamboree that is the Chelsea Flower Show will take place.
Perhaps you might be one of thousands of garden enthusiasts who line up to view the fabulous instant gardens or marvel at the latest hybrid plants.
Or maybe you enjoy watching the TV programmes made about the show from the comfort of your own home.
Happily for us in Henley, we are holding our own Chelsea Fringe Festival again this year.
Apart from the fantastic floral flotilla making good use of the river and boat owners’ imaginative floral creations, we have other horticultural events to cater for all tastes.
Interestingly, this year there are several venues which offer a spiritual dimension to outdoor spaces, such as the silent, meditative walk in woods near Greys Court, or the pop-up Japanese Zen garden in the town centre.
More and more people appreciate switching off from the noise and immediacy of modern life.
Quakers understand that we all need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness, we are urged to seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life.
That is why Henley Quakers are so pleased to be able to share the peacefulness of our own garden during the Chelsea Fringe.
When I was a girl one of my favourite books was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
I could imagine the awe and excitement of coming across a hidden garden, shut up for many years and overgrown but a haven for wildlife and so peaceful.
So the first time I went into the Friends Meeting House garden in Henley more than 30 years ago it reminded me of the special hidden place behind the walls in the Secret Garden.
Surrounded by old brick and flint walls, it was hard to fight your way down through brambles and nettles to the old Quaker burial ground at the far end of the plot which at that time was covered in undergrowth and impossible to enter.
Since then and over time Friends have sensitively managed the garden and burial ground, planting trees and beautiful shrubs and at the same time making the space a lovely place to sit and just be.
It is a real pleasure to be able to share this lovely garden hidden behind the Meeting House in Northfield End as part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival this year.
Somewhere for people to come and sit in the quiet, or peacefully sketch or write or just soak up the tranquillity that pervades our special place.
Quakers have always felt at one with nature and we are advised by past generations to look after the world, its resources and people for future generations. We do not own the world but are stewards of its riches.
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