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24 September 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > About Wiltshire > Places > World's longest maze gets a trim

World's longest maze gets a trim

Twice a year gardeners get out their shears to clip Longleat's two mile long hedge maze...

Longleat Maze

Image courtesy of BNPS

It's nearly two miles long, boasts over 16,000 yew trees and is sprawled out over 1.5 acres of Wiltshire countryside....and twice a year it has to be trimmed.

So how exactly do the gardeners at Longleat go about clipping one of the world's longest hedge mazes?

It's not, as you might think, as simple as giving the youngest member of the grounds team a pair of shears and a giant ball of string…

Extreme hedge trimming

In fact it takes a team of six gardeners brandishing petrol powered hedge trimmers over a month to tackle the 2.72 kms of hedges by hand:

"It's got to be one of the biggest jobs in horticulture," says Jules Curtis, one of the Longleat grounds team.

"We do two main cuts a year - one in the autumn and one in spring."

Longleat Maze

But clipping back a total of nearly five miles of hedge by hand is only half the problem. Not getting lost, in a labyrinth of eight foot high hedges, is the real challenge.

Designed by Greg Bright, and laid out at Longleat over 30 years ago, the maze is so complex it can take over an hour and a half just to walk through it.  And, as an emergency back up, has had to put in "lift if lost" direction panels for those unable to find the exit.

Going round in circles

So how exactly do Longleat's team of maze hedge trimmers keep their bearings?

"Well, basically we start at the outside and gradually work our way towards the middle," says Jules.  "At first it's easy to lose your way and you can end up wandering round in circles - in fact some of the new gardeners do complain about getting dizzy!

"It can take a couple of years to memorise the route in and out, although even then you do still have to keep your wits about you.

Longleat Maze

Image courtesy of BNPS

"Luckily the fact that we've all got ladders does help as we can always pop our head over the top of the maze to get our bearings."

You might not be able to bring along your own ladder, to tackle the maze, but with six new wooden bridges and a 10 metre high tower to climb up and check your progress you might not need to.

So what are you waiting for?.... go on, get lost.

last updated: 24/06/2008 at 14:12
created: 24/06/2008

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fred brown
i also have a hedge and trim it regularly

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