From Walden to School to Useful and reusable
I, too, have been saddened by the news that Walden School was to close, and have reflected on what it gave me, a pupil in the 1950s.
I was a rather bookish child but with two left feet; others were sporty but struggled with exams. But there was a place in school life for each child and the staff encouraged unexpected skills in everyone, which fostered a feeling of self-worth. I still enjoy the non-competitive and meditative skills of embroidery, taught by a patient art mistress.
With adult hindsight I realise how bewildering life in an English Quaker school must have been for the many children welcomed from overseas.
At the time their ‘difference’ was unremarked since we were all ‘different’, all unique, and each of us had a contribution to make to the lively kaleidoscope of the school community.
Regrettably, the governors have found it impossible to continue running the school, but the values which each one of its pupils over the generations has absorbed surely continue in the way we approach our professional and personal lives. Teachers, too, who moved to other schools, take that vision with them.
This is the enduring expression of our Quakerism and I give thanks for all I was given at Friends’ School Saffron Walden.
Early in the 1940s a long envelope dropped through the letterbox with my name on it. It was a first, for usually it was only adults who received letters of that shape. Something important for me? It was an invitation to attend Saffron Walden Summer School.
Despite the fact that I was at that time not much involved in Quaker activities, nor had any clear spiritual leadings, it didn’t take long for me to respond, and the end of term found me on a train bound for Saffron Walden little knowing what I might expect to find. The adults would all be very solemn and serious; the daily programme included a period of Bible study. What had I let myself in for?
However, it turned out to be a week filled with a multitude of different activities: learning, discovering and having great fun with a lively, friendly group of young teenagers and adults of all ages, some of the latter bearing nicknames such as ‘Baron Whittle-Whittle’. Does that name remind older readers of anyone? And all in the lovely surroundings and atmosphere of the school on a hill in an old Essex town full of character.
On two more occasions I returned there. It probably led to my decision to join Young Friends, and a further introduction to the things which matter at a week’s YF conference at Friends School Wigton – alas, no longer there.
Years later we were driving our teenage daughter to the same destination, and a generation after that it was the turn of grandchildren to attend Summer School at Saffron Walden.
Thank you, Friends School Saffron Walden, for being there. And thank you all those adults who gave their time to making it such a worthwhile experience.
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