Austen Associates were recently commissioned to undertake the landscape design of a labyrinth for Barretstown as part of RTE's new show about voluntary work called Do The Right Thing. We understand that this will be featured on an episode of Do the Right Thing to be screened on or around September the 8th on RTE 2.
Barretstown is a specially-designed camp that provides Therapeutic Recreation programmes for children with serious illnesses, and their families. The camp is held in the grounds of the beautiful Barrestown House, itself an important historical property with lots to offer for those interested in historical properties and their owners.
|Barretstown house as viewed from the fishing lake - note: Elizabeth Arden's red door added in the 1960s|
The grounds of the estate also include mature parkland trees, a fishing lake and a traditional walled garden in which the labyrinth has been set. The camp was established by the actor Paul Newman in 1994. It is a truly wonderful facility and we feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to flex our landscape design muscles in order to make a meaningful, permanent contribution that will hopefully provide benefit to the children attending Barretstown's camps.
|Austen Associates landscape design for the labyrinth at Barretstown|
We designed the labyrinth after extensive research and there is a great wealth of information available in this regard. They are not to be confused with mazes that are in fact designed to cause puzzlement and confusion. A labyrinth has a single circuitous path to and from its centre and will have a number of full circuits, most commonly seven. Labyrinth design has existed for thousands of years and they have been used as symbols in many different cultures, often with spiritual significance. In recent times, many labyrinths have been designed to provide users with an opportunity to go on a journey, perhaps of discovery or by which to mediate, to relax or to help in resolving a problem.
Construction techniques are not straight forward and in our case we also had to consider that the route through the labyrinth had to be wheelchair accessible with a minimum path width of 1.2m. Due to the constraints of the space available to us in the walled garden, we reduced the number of circuits from seven to five to accommodate the pathways. We adapted construction information provided online to produce our own landscape construction drawings and these proved invaluable when setting out the labyrinth on site (well done to landscape architect Sophie Barwich for her hard work in this regard).
|Austen Associates landscape construction drawings showing 12 steps for setting out the labyrinth|
|The materials that we used to set out the labyrinth on site|
The construction materials used for the labyrinth included 40 tonnes of hardcore and 21 tonnes of grit for the pathways, which were sponsored by Roadstone. A flexible path edging material was supplied by Smartedge.
The labyrinth was constructed by the volunteers as part of the Do the Right Thing show over a couple of days and a great result was achieved thanks to their hard work and enthusiasm. They understood the landscape design concept right from the start and were determined to deliver the best result possible.
|Do the Right Thing volunteers constructing the labyrinth|
We would also like to thank the grounds staff at Barretstown for their invaluable support and assistance throughout the process and we are delighted that they are pleased with the result also.
We feel that the setting, in the walled-garden at Barretstown, provides for a magical effect and feelings of harmony and security.