Essentially I had 4 wooden planters that were ~3 feet long made that were dropped into any of 20 brick lined holes in the ground. (They looked 'a bit like this picture'. Please excuse my poor 15 minute job of rendering this in photoshop with my limited skills.)
Also, I had 16 planters with just grass and dirt in them. These I put in the other 16 holes. The planters were carefully made to be identical and they fit flush with the ground.
The planters with hedges looked like they had been there as long as the rows of hedges had been. These segments could be pulled out in about 3 minutes and swapped with a planter that had just grass and dirt in it.
That changed the entire pattern of the maze.
You can see how much change just moving two section made. You can imagine what could be done with 4 hedge sections and 20 possible brick lined enclosures.
Life is like this. One small change in the puzzle of life can make a great difference in how long it lasts.
The planters and holes were made to fit perfectly and they were even keyed with a piece of wood and a matching slot so that they could not be accidentally turned around and put in the wrong way.
You could not tell where any of the planters were. If you knew exactly where one was, got down on your hands and knees and then scraped away the grass and dirt you just might be able to locate one.
The maze probably had 10,000 combinations but there were about 50 really good ones that we mainly used. The best combination was pretty close to the one I diagrammed in the animation. That was the 'standard' set up that we left it in most of the time.
Only the gardeners, my husband and I knew that these planters even existed.
The wood itself was soaked in lead, tannin and coal tar to resist decay and it made the planters last for at least five years. The bricks for the liners were those used for sewers but we glazed them on the side facing inward so they were slippery and waterproof. Those were on the bottom and on the sides may have been large tiles. It was novel so there was a lot of experimentation that we had to do using different materials. I can't recall which was the final design. I can remember that at one time or another besides brick we tried about four different kinds of materials for the bottom part.
I don't know what they did to the ground in the 1800's or how extensive their work was when they rebuilt the maze but maybe there are still some bricks and brick plates or tiles in the ground in the maze. Probably gardeners have been finding parts of 'old water cisterns' or 'septic tanks' for the last 400 years and have not known what the brick material was really used for. I'd bet with ground penetrating radar someone could locate a lot of these in no time. It seems there was metal involved such as nails so maybe even a metal detector will turn something up.
There should be a much easier way. If the wooden planters were left then there would be a slow decay of the wood. Each side was over an inch thick so the sides and the bottom when rotted will eventually cause at least a 3 inch depression above it looking like the shallow burial of a short person. Those shallow depressions in the maze have probably made more than a few people suspicious of the Cecil family.
I probably used enough bricks to pay a workman's wages for a year so they may have all been removed. However, we had lots of loose bricks on the property so at least some of them may still be there. Look for shallow depressions in the shape of planters.
When I had large parties, mainly for hunts, which might go on for five days or more, we would usualy take a day off to play games. One day was spent racing through the maze. We would have one race in the morning and one in the afternoon. Every one would bet and each person would stagger their starting times by a few minutes. Then we timed when they came out. Afterwards we would pay off bets that we made with each other and take a break for lunch.
People would often mark the path with small objects, coins, threads, broken off leaves or else they would even slit leaves all so they could win the afternoon race. So during lunch I would send in a number of gardeners to straighten up the maze and trim off broken leaves. I would sometimes tell my guests that there were too many markers were being left in the maze and that to make things more interesting I would just have the gardeners move some of the markers to different locations, instead of removing them like I normally did.
What the four workmen were mainly doing was swapping around the planters. Where there had been a wall before lunch there would now be a path and one of the four open pathways nearby would have become a wall. I had this done while everyone was eating lunch and no one ever knew about it.
Then everyone would bet ten times as much since they were certain that they had the maze memorized. I would just watch them lose their money. The ships captains took it the hardest since their lives often depended on their memory and being able to navigate without error. They would often break down in tears.
This is why ours was the most difficult maze in Europe. I never told anyone. I made a promise to the gardeners that they would be given a large bonus for as long as nobody found out the secret. They got the bonus every single year since nobody ever caught on.
The bonus was actually about three times their normal wage. I never liked seeing people live a hand to mouth existence and I always alleviated it if I could do so (without alienating them.) It was a fortune, but we were the spy masters of England and we didn't get that way by not knowing the value of a secret and rewarding those that kept them.
There were other factors that made the maze more difficult.
I have noted the path as it is now and how it was. I have produced a slow animation of the maze showing the relatively small change. Here is why it was very 'upsetting'.
Notice how the 'red' path used to go all the way to the left side and pass along that wall? When they got there they would usually think it was right near the end. The people would feel cooler air coming through the hedge from the outside and they could often hear noises and voices from the out side that were not very muffled and sounded close so they knew they were at the outer row of hedges. Very close to the outside.
They would be within three feet of the starting point (on the left although they often got turned around so they thought it was the other end and that there had to be an exit nearby). That was really confusing to nearly everyone.
There was a very lewd brass statue in the middle of the maze. It was quite lewd even for the French so that is why I put it where grandmothers would not come across it. It had a nasty habit of giving young couples ideas and they got lost for a couple more hours every time they went in there. Well at least they didn't have to worry about grandmothers in there.
Someone probably stole it. I was afraid that might happen.
This was the 120 mph roller coaster of the 17th century. It was the most difficult maze in Europe.
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