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National Trust News: The Cliveden Maze

"A 'lost' maze in the National Trust gardens at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire that disappeared for over half a century has been re-created using over 1,000 two metre (six feet six inches) high yew trees,'' reports Jeannette Heard.

The fully-fledged maze is based on one that was built for Lord Astor in 1894 but had ceased to be maintained since the mid-1900s.

The new maze, a horticultural project on a scale rarely seen these days, has taken two years to create, using over 1,000 metres of steel edging and 120 tonnes of gravel to produce 500 metres of path over one third of an acre. It is the same size as the world-famous Hampton Court maze.

Lord Astor's designs for the maze were discovered in National Trust archives in 2005. Apart from a few surviving yew trees that provided the exact location of the maze, little else was known about the original maze.

The two-year project was led by Cliveden's Head Gardener Andrew Mudge. He said: "Once we found the old plans in 2005 we just felt compelled to recreate it. It took a lot of research and planning to firstly draw out the plans, and to prepare the ground.

"The maze has been built as close as possible to the original maze site, the clearance involved removing the last remnants of the original maze and some poor trees and shrubs and perennial weeds, the whole area then had to be leveled.

"Finding enough fully grown yew trees to complete the maze was the most challenging part, but once we found a supplier we managed to plant all 1,100 12-year-old trees in 20 days in October and November last year, which is of course the best time of year to plant most tree types.

"Yew trees create great mazes because they readily form dense hedges and are easily clipped into shape.

"The maze will take a little while to really establish itself and fill out, but it's fantastic that people can enjoy it straight away. And don't worry, you can't cheat by pushing through the hedges because they are all enclosed by metal railings.

"And because it's yet to appear on Google Earth, there's no cheating using mobile phones either, so its a real treat for people who want to puzzle their way in and out of the maze."

Each tree on arrival, weighed approximately 60 kilograms, and four 40 foot long lorries were required to transport them.

Mike Calnan, Head of Gardens and Parks at the National Trust, said: "Mazes provide a perfect opportunity for people to get outdoors and to have fun exploring these rare, but important features from our gardening past. The Cliveden maze will be the most important yew maze the Trust will have restored to date."

The Maze is a highlight in Cliveden's ongoing renaissance to return it to its former 19th Century splendour, when the grounds were world famous for their sophisticated planting and landscaping. Other recent developments include the opening up of long lost vistas and footpaths and the re-instatement of historical planting schemes.

"Extraordinary feats of garden engineering on this scale are few and far between these days, and I feel very privileged to be opening such a piece of horticultural history," said Alan.
"Cliveden's maze is certainly something to be treasured; as an iconic symbol of its Victorian heyday and the programme of restoration the gardens are now undergoing, but also as an extremely enjoyable addition for visitors to this beautiful landscape."

Cliveden is open daily from 10am to 5.30pm, with the maze open 10am to 5.00pm. For more information and admission prices visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cliveden or call 01628 605069.

Other National Trust properties with mazes are:

* Belton House, Lincolnshire - box tree maze. Belton's maze was planted with box plants - Boxus Sempervirens in spring 2001. The trees are about 54 inches high at present.

* Glendurgan garden, Cornwall - one metre high laurel maze. The Glendurgan Maze was planted in 1833 by Alfred Fox, using Cherry Laurel. His inspiration was the then famous maze in the Sydney Gardens in Bath, with the thatched summer-house, in the centre of the maze, following the design of the original. The hedges are three-four feet high.

* Greys Court, the Archbishop's Maze, Oxfordshire - not a conventional maze, but rather a flat brick and turf maze designed by Randall Coate and Adrian Fisher in 1981, said to have been inspired by the enthronement speech of Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, in which he referred to "the maze of life".

* Tatton Park, Cheshire - beech maze. Garden mazes have always been a popular feature in landscaped gardens and the maze at Tatton is no exception. It is one of the two hedged mazes in gardens owned by the National Trust. According to records, the Tatton maze was well established by 1795.
Planted with a mixture of Hornbeam and Beech, which are, of course, deciduous, means it is only possible to get totally lost in it during the Summer! A new centrepiece was created in 2008, by local chainsaw artist, Tim Burgess. The figure winds out of the trunk of a dead Cedar and incorporates a number of historical features. He holds a compass, referencing the journeys of the 'great traveller', Maurice Egerton, twisting ferns create hands and arms, reflecting the many fern cultivars found in the gardens and his face has a little of Knutsford's legendary 'King Canute' in his expression.

* Cragside, Northumberland - a naturally formed rhododendron labyrinth. Visitors need to find their way through a maze of twisted rhododendron trunks to find wooden creatures at the centre. There are loads of hiding places and different directions to go in.

More about Cliveden

Cliveden was originally created by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham who acquired the land in 1666. Over the following three centuries, the families who called Cliveden home created a series of stunning formal gardens. They contain fine works of art and many Roman antiquities as well as seasonal floral displays. From 1893 Cliveden was the home of the Astor family, including Waldorf and Nancy Astor, who was the first female MP to take up her seat in Parliament.

The house and grounds were presented to the National Trust in 1942 and the Astor family continued to live there until the death of the 3rd Viscount in 1966.

Cliveden has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years thanks to an ambitious programme of conservation, restoration and general improvements to visitor facilities. New seasonal bedding planting creates a colourful spectacle on the iconic Parterre and last year a new Trim Trail opened in the woodlands to encourage visitors to use the estate as an outdoor gym, and a new children's play area was created to fire the imagination of the under-8s.

The formal gardens at Cliveden take up 74 acres, with the wider estate of woodland and paddocks totalling 376 acres.

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