Revealing the Labyrinth at Stowe
A new area of the garden has recently been restored at Stowe in the west of the garden on the route to the Boycott Pavilions. There’s a Labyrinth with winding paths, 3,500 new shrubs and a secret clearing with a giant swing, huge abacus and skittle alley.
A new area to discover
The Labyrinth was part of the original early eighteenth-century garden designed by William Love but over the years it had become obscured and overgrown. Stowe is fortunate to have the original maps of the garden dating from the 1700s and these showed the layout of the beds, swing and skittle alley.
What work was involved?
The restoration project started two years ago and began with clearing away many of the self-set trees and undergrowth. The staff team were helped by volunteers and corporate volunteering groups who did sterling work on the bramble bashing. Many of the felled trees have been gathered into habitat piles for insects and mammals that make their home in the deadwood.
For the layout, the gardeners used the original maps and a GPS system to work out where the beds and paths would have been. They then verified their deductions, under the guidance of a historic gardens adviser and archaeologist, by gently scraping the surface of the ground to find the foundations still in place.
Finding your way through
The gravel and grass paths marked on the eighteenth-century map have been faithfully recreated along with the planting scheme of magnolia, laurel, box, yew, spindle and hazel. Eventually these will grow to above head height and recreate the drama of being lost in a maze and having to find your way out.
Near the top of the Labyrinth, tucked away in a secret clearing is the skittle alley and abacus. There’s also a hand pump which visitors can work. It fills a basin with water for dogs and helps with drainage of the ground. Within a peaceful circle of mature oak trees there’s also a giant swing.
" The oaks are the same trees which are shown on our eighteenth-century map. It’s extraordinary to think that they have been here all that time and you can’t help wondering what they have witnessed over the years. I’m really looking forward to seeing this area of the garden restored to life with people enjoying the Labyrinth."
Restoring Stowe – The Landscape Programme
The Labyrinth restoration is part of Restoring Stowe – The Landscape Programme which was launched in 2015. It comprises 54 tasks taking place over five years to return the gardens to their former glory. Reinstating missing statues and opening new areas of the garden to complete the story of Stowe is high on the list of priorities.
Many iconic statues have already been returned thanks to generous donations by private donors and the public. Find out more about the restoration programme here.