Of mizmazes and labyrinths

In which I walk a northern labyrinth and remember a southern mizmaze

Set amidst the fells and with its own magnificent trees and wildflower meadow, the churchyard [of St Mary’s Church, in Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales] is a haven of calm and peace. Since 2018 a small group of local villagers and church members has worked on a churchyard project including, in early 2020, the construction of a limestone labyrinth within the meadow. Already this has become a place of reflection; a safe container for sorrows and joys, uncertainties and hopes; a place of solace for the soul.

From the website of the Small Pilgrim Places Network

I’ve been north for the week or so, including a few days in the Yorkshire Dales. To my shame, given I am the child of Yorkshire parents, I have never before visited the Dales. I was entranced.

Early in my stay, I visited Kettlewell. Though far from the New Forest and the woods and heaths of which Joan Begbie wrote, I thought of her. The little church of St Mary’s in the village, its origins in the twelfth century but with later rebuilding in the nineteenth century, is enchanting. I’m not religious, but a churchyard always draws me in, especially if it is haven for wildlife – long grass, wildflowers, lichened old gravestones, moss and ivy creeping through trees and ancient walls. St Mary’s churchyard is all that, and more.

In one corner is a stone labyrinth. It looks as if it has sat there forever, but it was created from limestone in 2020 by a local stone waller.

The meadow labyrinth in St Mary’s churchyard in Kettlewell, Yorkshire Dales

A printed notice invites you in: “To walk a labyrinth is to step into an ancient space for the soul.” I did walk the labyrinth, and I did feel lifted and refreshed. As I walked round its curves and bends, sometimes drawn near its edge, sometimes circling in towards the centre, I thought of another maze. Back in May 2021, I wrote of the Breamore Mizmaze, near the New Forest, which Joan visited and described in her book Walking in the New Forest, published in 1934.

The Breamore Mizmaze

The Breamore Mizmaze is mediaeval, centuries’ older than the Kettlewell labyrinth, but they are joined in a spirit of contemplation and peace. The same spirituality that inspired the creators of the former breathed on a twenty-first century stonewaller as they laid limestone to make the latter. In Breamore, the spirals of the Mizmaze’s path are green grass; in Kettlewell, the spirals are limestone. Plant and rock joined in common purpose.

I think Joan would have liked the churchyard in Kettlewell.

3 thoughts on “Of mizmazes and labyrinths

    1. You must go to the Breamore mizmaze! It’s a lovely place and very contemplative, even though you can’t walk on the actual maze itself (for its protection). Spring is an especially good time to go, as the walk up the hill to the mizmaze is a sea of bluebells.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s