THE mathematician and cosmologist Brian Swimme, with the historian Thomas Berry, wrote a book, The Universe Story (1992), recounting the “generally accepted” understanding of the beginning of creation 13.5 billion years ago up to our present civilisation. Erna and Michael Colebrook, of Green Spirit, had the idea of translating this epic theme into a garden walk; and it took shape when Professor Lisa Isherwood, of Winchester University, commandeered a piece of university land and, with the gardeners and students, created the Cosmic Walk.
The blacksmith Melissa Cole’s model of DNA
She says: “The Cosmic Walk is an experience which, hopefully, inspires people to think with and preserve the earth. Not all religions in the West wish to engage with the story of the cosmos, to investigate the meaning and value of life, and when we do ponder the deep questions of the universe, we tend to make the classical scriptures the starting-point and not contemplation of the universe itself.”
The artist Megan Clay was commissioned to design the artwork. As part of her Ph.D., she work painted a 15-panel mural at the beginning of the walk, in colourful varnished acrylics that faithfully depict, the void (the Hebrew Tohu Vabohu), followed by the Big Bang. These give way to swirling shapes to show how the galaxy, the sun, and the earth developed. On the other side of the path are plants in existence billions of years ago, including bamboo and fern.
Representing the dinosaur period are a mural for children to enjoy, and a small statue of a dinosaur made by Daren Greenhow from bicycle parts (News, 23 November); and there is a model of DNA by the blacksmith Melissa Cole. An early primate appears as an ape up in a tree, and there are models of spiders, dragonflies, and a crocodile in a bog garden.
Dr Clay has designed a structure in the shape of a large woman. In each part of her body herbs grow that heal that particular area. Ginger, dandelion, and cayenne, it seems, are good for circulation.
The development of religions is represented by recognisable statues, such as the Virgin in white dress and blue cloak, standing by a Holy Well in a cave representing Christianity, and near by a small garden growing the flowers sacred to the religions. A very large banner bears a collage of faces of people who have fought moral battles and developed our knowledge of life.
An arch leads in imagination to our own concept of paradise. On either side are an apple tree and baskets of apples from which you are invited to help yourself.
Even on a bleak winter morning, the walk is a pleasant way to ponder on the human condition and its responsibility in the natural world.
The walk is free and open to the public. It is at West Downs Quarter, Romsey Road, Winchester SO 22 5FT. There are Q tags, but it is also a good idea to look up the informative website www.cosmicwalk.co.uk.