Report by John Slater
What an amazing evening! The sun shone and more than sixty members and friends assembled at the main door of the cathedral for a guided tour of the gardens and a chance to examine and appreciate the equally exciting developments within the cathedral. Our guide was no less than the inspirational Dean, the Very Rev. Nigel Godfrey.
After a warm welcome from the steps, Nigel explained that we are but two years into a five -year project. The whole scheme is set out clearly in an illustrated booklet available at the back of the cathedral. Do take one with you as you start to explore this incredible national asset.
There are nine ways to explore, using different trails. They come under the general headings of History, Science, Health, Art and a play area. There are twelve historic gardens and seven themed.
The history gardens tell the story of how Christianity has engaged with Manx culture from its arrival in the 5th Century.
The four science gardens are animal, vegetable, mineral and mathematical. This is particularly absorbing, dealing with the mathematics underlying creation such as the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci sequence.
The health garden explores a range of health issues – everything from paths associated with reflexology to plants for healing.
Two art gardens celebrate contemporary art in the landscape and the great Manx artist, Archibald Knox.
A wilderness garden for children includes play equipment, dinosaur trail, mini-beasts and bees.
Gardens on view at the moment include the 6thc. Maughold garden and the specially constructed keeill (early chapel) based on Lag-ny-Keeily near Dalby, dated 7th – 9th c.
The labyrinth in the centre is most eye-catching, a replica of that at Chartres. This can be walked at any time and is strangely therapeutic.
Gardens progress, century by century. The medieval – styled snail mound with its curving path to its summit acts as a viewing point over the gardens and echoes Tynwald Hill. This is wheel chair accessible.
The Manx garden, from the 18th.c, emphasises the language and the Methodist garden the 19th c. You will have to rely on the guide, for the moment, to see the Presidents Amphitheatre for outdoor performances and the planned cloister including the music school.
Gardens on the south side record major events in the 20thc including the Knockaloe internment camp, the Nazi Holocaust, the Ukraine Holodomor Forced Famine, the Rwandan Genocide and the Nanjing Massacre. These are all thought-provoking, especially in our present troubled times. Nonetheless, the over all feeling is one of prayerful optimism. Pick up a guide and share the many experiences.. Visits over time and in different seasons will all be rewarding.
Our next meeting is on Friday, August 4th for a walking tour of Arbory with Noel Cringle. Meet at his home, The Friary, on the main road in Ballabeg by 6.30pm. Do wear footwear suitable for returning through fields! This will be easy enough, so don’t envisage a Himalayan trek!