People approaching Minsteracres from the A68 during the past year will have seen quite a bit of activity in the parkland between the chapel and the Peace Garden. The activity focused on a rockery which for many years was the site of a crucifix. Earlier on, during the 1940’s, this concrete slab was the base of a water tank for the National Fire Service when they used Minsteracres for training purposes.

Under the guidance of Andrew Pennington this site has been transformed. Our Conservation Volunteers, with help from service users of Free the Way and volunteers from Sage, assisted in removing the rocks and preparing the ground for the construction of a real sundial.

Funding for this project was obtained from the Big Lottery Awards for All scheme which supports projects that are aimed at education and help to bring people together and build community.

The construction of sundials goes back many centuries. They are the earliest timekeeping devices which enabled human beings to measure time using the sun. A sundial uses a light spot or shadow cast by the position of the sun on a reference scale.

But the new sundial at Minsteracres is unusual in the sense that one essential piece is missing: the needle which casts the shadow on the dial. ”That has been done on purpose”, Andrew explains. “It is called a ‘human sundial’ because it needs the active involvement of a human being. You need to stand on one of the stones in the middle of the sundial with the name of the appropriate month of the year. The shadow your body casts will indicate the time.”

This human interaction will help visitors to be aware of the rhythm of the seasons and feel more part of the universe. Hopefully there will be plenty of sunshine for many people to enjoy this new feature in the grounds of Minsteracres!

by Fr Jeroen Hoogland