In 1663 Quakers in High Wycombe took out a lease on a piece of land called Saffron Platt. This was used from that date onwards for many generations as their burial ground. The last burial there took place in 1913. In 1986 the ground was handed over to the the local district council and in 2015 money became available to re-develop the site as a Peace Garden to commemorate 100 years since WW1. Our writers spent a morning contemplating this area which is now surrounded by a car park.
In the Quaker Burial Ground
This small green square is mute and yet speaks with a clear un-shaking voice
Not one of those beneath my feet knew me, nor I them
Yet they are the teachers and I the pupil
They tell of lives lived three hundred years since
Of courage to worship in a quiet new way
Of cruelties endured and friendships shared
Of living in the light and sometimes hiding in the dark
When I stand and turn to home they walk beside me
Can I find the light of which their clay filled mouths talk?
Can I be a pattern worthy of their name?
The Peace Garden
It seems so right in soil nourished by pacifists’ bones, a peace garden grows
When nightly violence fills our screens
Bombs, explosives, guns and swords
Terror, injury, death and destruction soak our eyes
Where is that piece of God that rests in all of us?
How deeply buried it must be in some men’s hearts
How deep is it in mine?
Where is that peace of God in all of us?
Is this garden for rest and ease?
Or for discomfort and calling me to action?
THOUGHTS IN A QUAKER BURIAL GARDENTheirs were but human hearts that beat like ours
but beat to a different rhythm of time.
Their hearts beat to the undershot splash
of the wheel in the stream
that powered the mill
that ground the corn
that the market devoured.
Their hearts beat to the dread of disease
from the pestilent rags
of the papermen’s trade
and the fear of the strangers
brought in from elsewhere to pulp the stuff;
the plague-ridden pulp, from which paper was pressed.
Their hearts beat as they brewed their beer
and tailored their clothes
and made their hats
and their pipes for tobacco
and baked their bread
and built with timber
and shaped the iron
that shod their horse
and created the tools to harvest the harvest
that decked out their stalls on market day.
Their hearts beat to the clatter of hooves
and the parson’s preaching of sin and damnation,
of grace and salvation.
And their hearts beat ‘gainst the heart-stopping mem’ries
of war by the stream that powered their peace,
The backdrop, for those who lie peacefully here,
was a turbulent one. And now, for them,
with the old order gone, their minds were rich
for new thoughts to take root.
From seedling to flower, at breakneck speed,
a harvest of fresh convictions would grow.
And into their fertile, seeking minds
the Quaker seed was sown.
The Peace GardenAs the young man and his dog traverse
This urban ground, what does he know
Of unconsecrated Quakers
Lying dead beneath the grass?
Clipped municipal shrubs show
A solid, maybe reluctant, respect
Giant sycamore, allowed to grow,
Cast their shadows across the path.
What luck the railway track has missed it.
Though you hear the swish of trains
As they slow.
The bright cars gleam below.
The urge to build has been resisted.
Down the years, near Saffron Platt,
Some living Quakers have persisted
And now have planned a quiet garden
Where the others lie in peace.
They pray that here, a little heaven,
With butterflies and nightly bats,
Will stop mankind and help them wonder
Why we fight and lose our tempers.
Here the new plan’s soft meanders
Help reach out to reconcile
That of god within us all.
The GardenWelcome to you, friend, in the here and now,
Some time to pause, for yourself allow.
Look beyond down the hill and ponder the view,
Feel timeless nature severing hullabaloo.
Gentle gardens and trees that rustle,
Look up to the sky and escape the bustle.
Quieten your mind, Friend, and let it rest,
For in peace and tranquillity, you are blessed.
Now look to the past to people faded
This place for Quaker was special and sacred.
People like you with lives that unfold Leaving their mark with stories untold.
They were silently steadfast in times less than tolerant
Supporting each other to foster their confidence
Until they were granted freedom and release And created this garden to rest in peace.
Now look to the future with hope and with grace
There is goodness around you, so seek and embrace.
Silence and stillness will strengthen the soul;
Let this place nurture you as you stroll.
Let this place nurture you as you stroll.