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Updates for the Whispering Knights woodland project - Neolithic Echoes.


Neolithic Echoes - Labyrinth Grows

Karl Gunter

A 1 minute video showing how the Neolithic Echoes Labyrinth is coming on for Oxfordshire Artweeks 2019

Karl Gunter: “I started laying out the pattern for the Neolithic Echoes Labyrinth at the end of 2018 - it seemed like the obvious next step to compliment the shapes, spirals and structures. The slices of wood and their placement won’t offer the same opportunities for birds, but already mycelium is forming on some of the undersides and as the wood decays there might be some nice opportunities for small insects and beetles… certainly the slugs and snails seem to be making use of the spaces, and last week I came across a queen wasp sunning itself on one of the ash rounds.”

Walk the Labyrinth

Karl Gunter

People are finding the labyrinth and it is generating interest and questions.

As a family passed by recently, I overheard a child say “I don't know what it is but I like it.”

High praise!

Common questions include “What is it?” or “Is it a maze?”.

Yet another is “What is it for?”

All excellent questions, and as I've said to a good number of people: “Well, it depends on what you bring to the party...”

Anyway, the questions got me thinking about what might be said; currently it is this:

Walk the labyrinth

To look into yourself

To look into the world

And the world

To look into you

The words are simple but reflect some of the things that a labyrinth might be used for. In some ways the labyrinth seems like the short meditation spirals, but as it develops and the more I walk it, I’m finding it generates strong parallels in feeling and effects to the Taoist yoga and martial arts / calisthenics I have been practicing for over 35 years. I suspect that the ‘space’ of the labyrinth works with whatever it finds in our minds - and for me, that is in the form of amplifying the practices of Taoist physical culture exercises like short form Tai Chi, breathing exercises and physical calisthenics. For someone else it would likely be reflective of their interests and thoughts.

The idea of the Neolithic Echoes Labyrinth as a tool is something I shall ponder further; one aspect is its potential for discursive meditation of ideas and questions both simple and complex.

Karl Gunter

Checking the Labyrinth

Karl Gunter

May need to adjust the basics of the labyrinth cascade if the winds get more intense – repairs were still standing when I checked today but the forecast for Wednesday is wind gusts of 50mph+

Of course, more whimsically it might be the Earl of the Wind (From my old martial arts style) reminding me to keep up calisthenics and practice!

View of labyrinth from north

The eyes of the labyrinth

A Labyrinth and a Fool?

Karl Gunter

Made an adjustment to the new planting in the labyrinth by changing all tree protectors to try and get them to blend by being more uniform. Now need to try adding a Fibonacci 'wave’ to the path walls that incorporates some of the new trees.

This won't be possible from a ratio perspective or for all of the new trees, but I hope to be able to make some of them work that way.

Tree protectors in labyrinth wall changed to better match

Wind very strong today... Did some adjustments to the Fibonacci cascade to fix where the wind had showed its weakness and try and make it more resilient. Perhaps a fool's errand!

Cascade repairs

Planting Trees into the Labyrinth Walls

Karl Gunter

This week saw a big part of the basics go into place that will now allow more refinements of the labyrinth.

As well as incorporating existing flora into the structure, the idea was to plant new trees into some parts of the path walls.

Luckily for me, there was some help on that front. The guys who had been doing some felling in the wood had sourced some trees and turned up Wednesday. I asked Adrian to walk the labyrinth with me to see if he thought the places I had marked out would work okay with the established trees.

I asked Adrian what he would recommend to plant at markers I'd put near the entrance with a third to go near the centre and he suggested Red Oak.

When we walked back out and reached the entrance, I said (only partially tongue-in-cheek) "Okay, you've been introduced to the labyrinth, planting may now commence." I'm not sure what he thought, but he smiled!

Decided to leave them to the planting of the trees and went to work on refreshing one of the old structures elsewhere.

Later that day I went to see how things were going - they'd put in between 40 and 50 trees and Adrian told me two interesting things (interesting to me at any rate!)...

1. He had got the other guy working with him to walk the labyrinth before they started planting


2. He had included a number of Cherry trees because he thought the blossom would really work well for the labyrinth

So - thank you Adrian, and a shout out to JAG Trees!

New trees planted into labyrinth walls

Nature Takes Control of Labyrinth Design

Karl Gunter

People started walking the labyrinth almost as soon as it was roughly laid out, but now the form is coming together more, it is proving to have a very good feel to it and, from the feedback I've been getting, it is working in the mysterious way that labyrinths are able!

The paths are not clear of debris yet because work continues, but it is now possible to follow it without too many unintended obstacles. Each day's work starts with walking to the centre, and the day ends by walking from the centre back to the entrance. The action of walking the labyrinth seems to open up interesting states of mind and the relationship between those and other meditative and esoteric practices is taking some serious exploration.

Labyrinth cascade early on

On a more mundane level, the world has informed me that the idea to simply stack a 'cascade' foolishly overlooked a number of things... most notably that the world has little consideration or worry for human aesthetic ideas (like balancing things) which attempt to ignore the fact that nature is not a simple system or machine that humans control by pushing buttons or 'just because'.

A few gusts of 30mph+ sharply re-introduced me to the idea that nature is in charge.

In this case, I thought perhaps a judicious use of some glue might help.

Well, nature took that glue and raised me a bucket full of wind-speed to point out that my glue didn't key well to smooth bark and I'd better up my game.

The labyrinth cascade grows…

Labyrinth from up a Ladder

Karl Gunter

Cutting rounds and moving them to the labyrinth has been a time-consuming task. To begin I was counting to keep a running total which seemed like a never ending job; so, rather than risk becoming a Styglian Enumerator, I stopped counting after the thousandth round fell to the floor and rolled away on a mission of its own.

That was back in December, and by the end of January it looks like the bulk of that will be done.

Of course, that is just the base, then comes the next stage of cutting!

At the moment it is mainly a case of holding an amorphous shape and feel of the labyrinth in my head; the markers really help but the thing seems to be evolving day by day but not in obvious way. After all the basic preparations are done, my hope is that it will start to come together a bit more quickly - the work does not produce visible results in a linear progression - like the other structures - "chaos with a hint of order" - put in a fancy way - "the development is more akin to the line of a golden spiral slowly resolving into focus from Fibonacci numbers".

More prosaically, "it is still a bit of a mess, but the chaos should be about to yield some signs of order"

Of course, still no idea of what it looks like from the air, but did get up a ladder to at least get an indication of whether it was going to be a pleasant spiral shape or intestines spilled crudely on the ground. Here are a couple of pictures showing the current layout.

View of labyrinth layout from the south

Labyrinth layout view from up a ladder

Haven't measured it yet, but pacing from one side of the labyrinth to the other could mean it is over 30 metres wide.

As for the length of the path, not sure exactly, could be around 400 paces from the entrance to the centre, then of course, another 400 or so paces back out.

Am trying an experiment with the crossing point:


A Labyrinth of Ideas

Karl Gunter

Work continues on doing repairs to old structures, moving materials around and starting to cut rounds for the base of the labyrinth walls. This year there is not so much brash so rather than major refreshes, repairs need to be more subtle so they don’t stand out too much.

A rough estimate of the distance to cover by walking the labyrinth path walls means I'm going to get some practice in my sharpening skills because of the amount of cutting needed. Cutting where I find useful sections, stacking and then moving them to the labyrinth is time consuming but gives a space to mull over layout and possibilities.

Been thinking a lot about numbers, spirals, directions and turns. Some of the aspects of these thoughts tie in so well with with so many things that the feeling is strong that there are ideas to be explored..

A labyrinth as a gateway to ideas?

Labyrinth Layout

Karl Gunter

Working on repairing existing structures and considering the labyrinth layout – I started wondering about how people might walk the labyrinth. That led to thinking of widening the paths so that there might be space for people to pause, a bit more room so that they can pass in opposite directions and to walk side by side at some points.

Widening the paths by scaling is all very well, but to scale the entire thing would make the need for a dizzying amount of extra materials... in the end, the best compromise seemed to include wider and narrower areas along the path - also, there are certain points where sitting spaces would be nice. There is a risk of distorting the shape… if so, I'll put that down as 'part of the organic look'.

One of the puzzles for the labyrinth is to decide on the best placement to allow use of what is already there and putting in new planting to succeed the felled trees.

This has meant adjusting the path markers again... with so many tree sections to move, the arborist's lifting tongs have been a fantastic help.

From the ground the shape seems to be coming together.

The Neolithic Echoes Labyrinth begins

Karl Gunter

The Neolithic Echoes Labyrinth begins

The area to build the labyrinth was determined by the trees that had to be thinned, so, after picking an orientation, the next job was the gathering sections of felled ash to mark out a labyrinth shape.

Getting the logs together is all very well, but on a practical level, the question has been where to start - in the end, the crossing point near the centre seemed like a reasonable place to begin. Setting out rough markers to indicate levels/circuits and give 'eye guides' so that the labyrinth, from the air, would look like a reasonable pattern and not just a giant intestine. We won't be able to see it from the air for a while, so just using a ground level best guess.

Using logs to layout the labyrinth

Another view of the layout

The entrance to the labyrinth

A Year in Four Minutes

Karl Gunter

From a misty spring morning to the depths of winter - Karl has compressed a year of woodland scenes into this 4 minute video. Located next to the Rollright Stones and Whispering Knights dolmen, Neolithic Echoes makes use of woodland brash to create habitats and visually pleasing designs.

Conversations in the woods

Karl Gunter

Work continues in the woods and we thought it would be nice to share a few of the many positive reactions... Thank you to everyone for so kindly agreeing to share their impressions.