Poems from Friends of Ashburnham Place

By Ashburnham Place
By Ashburnham Place
The labyrinth at Ashburnham Place


Deborah Volunteer

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Even in the midst of heart-rending global events; a hopeful reminder of green-shoots and new life emerging from the bare winter soil.

At Ashburnham Place we have been holding to the hope of resurrection and the inextinguishable light even in the midst of death and darkness through a simple daily rhythm of a lit candle, silent prayer and communion. In this simple act twice a day, we recall and quietly declare that God was broken for our brokenness and that somehow the world’s wholeness is made possible there.

We have recently been sent a couple of poetic reflections from friends of Ashburnham Place, written while staying here. The first is by my Dad who, while I was on sabbatical and walking the Camino Way in early Autumn, managed to steer his wheelchair around the labyrinth behind the Walled Garden. The Labyrinth was developed by our former gardener, Jim, as a place for quiet reflection and prayer in the midst of creation. I hope you enjoy the poem and maybe even make some time to come and walk/roll the labyrinth for yourself.

Thanks for the Labyrinth

There is a door in the kitchen garden wall,
But do not go that way; go by the gate,
Past the peach and fig trees, and turn in
To the seeming tangle of weeds and sedge.
In the evening light the embracing willows round
Flame with fire, yet are not consumed;
Their pollarded branches stretch into the sky.

Standing, or sitting, in the entrance,
A path, a way, begins to appear,
Invites you to follow, rough and unclear,
Through autumn-kissed fleabane, gold and bronze,
And down-headed thistles bent over and tired.
Follow, follow, do not deviate.
Linger a while. Listen. Be attentive.

Hear the raven, hear the dove,
Hear the laughter from the lake.
Follow though the end seems far;
Yet one more turn, another twist of the track,
And you arrive at the clearing, the centre
That forbids more walking,

Where stands the old tree trunk
Cracked crown of wood pierced with rusting iron stake
And half hidden the illegible slate all writing gone.
Now stop. Now you have arrived. Now look.
A dragonfly in iridescent beauty darts and dances
Above your head, while higher still the martlets
And the swallows joyfully swoop pursuing prey
To fuel their southbound sunbound journey.

Across the mackerel scaled sky a tiny silver airliner
Full of restless travellers leaves its toxic scar.
Breathe; be still. Hear the wind stir the leaves.
Open your eyes to see the ancient trees around,
Sit within the glade where wood and iron stand
Like the spindle of a globe. Don’t seek to leave. Stay.
Waiting for the whisper of a voice

Listen. Let it come. It will seek you out.
Till you, reluctant as you are to leave this place of peace,
Are ready, ready to respond to the patient call of love
And returning, to the drone of distant traffic, you pass
The glowing weightless sow-thistle seed balloons
Taking the path through tangled beautiful decay
And green shoots ready to rise again in spring. 

(Michael Wenham Sept 2021)

The Second Poem

This second poem is written by Chris Leonard who is long-time friend of Ashburnham Place and runs regular writing and creative retreats here. This was written during a retreat hosted by Epiphany – the incredible collective of musicians who we are mightily blessed to be able to host at various points throughout the year. This was an encouraging poem to receive as we emerged from the challenging times of Covid; it reminds of us of God’s faithfulness throughout history and especially in the ‘ruin times’.

I’ve heard that one Hebrew word for ‘salvation’ means ‘to create space’

I wrote this poem beneath the line-drawing of Ashburnham’s strange-looking front, on the notepad we were given on the retreat.

It had to be demolished! Gone
long lines of windows, rooftops, servants,
all centred upon the one
family. Conquest, Empire, wars left
none to own this empty space,
mouldering treasures. No purpose, no wealth.

Lakes remained – and woods. Just one
long line of windows, truncated roof
and space – to camp and build
for another family. Their roots lie,
not in ‘Conquering 1066’ but Year
Zero, not in war but in grace,
redemption. Christ creates space,
calls across the world, welcomes
all who would come in.

Then Covid shut God’s family out.
As we return, half-gone building
and Sixties’ block seem odd, incomplete –
as are we all! But God
remained here through the ruin-times.
Always, through chaos, darkness, formless void,
rekindling life is what he does –
creating space, incarnating
change, nourishing unexpected,
often messy growth with love.

(Chris Leonard)


Ashburnham Place

Ashburnham Place

Ashburnham Place

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