Back in February 2000, an impressive 2,000 yew trees were planted in a west London park to commemorate the new millennium. Their placement wasn't random though: they formed the Brent Lodge Park Millennium Maze, which is still in situ — and very much open to visitors — more than two decades on.
You'll find it among the hubbub in the centre of the hilly park. A children's playground rubs shoulders with an ice cream kiosk, which in turn is located next to the entrance of the mini zoo. By contrast, the maze sits slightly back from the fuss, a more tranquil manner of entertainment for those who seek it out.
The layer of grime on the information board at the entrance hints that the maze might be unloved and neglected, abandoned even, these days, a millennium flash in the pan whose novelty has worn off 23 years later — so our hopes aren't high. It's a pleasant surprise then, to see that the yew hedges have been trimmed fairly recently, with a precision that could put a Chelsea Flower Show medallist to shame. Someone's obviously taking care of the place.
The maze has a square footprint, with angular paths cutting through its centre, luring you down dead ends and false turns as you try to reach the raised wooden platform in the centre, and then the exit. The hedges sit 4-5ft tall throughout, high enough for children to be completely immersed, and for most adults to see what's going on around them — but not enough to be of any navigational use, except to the exceptionally lofty.
Here and there, illicit gaps have appeared in the interior hedges, born, we suspect, of the frustrations of lost maze-goers who've relented and created their own shortcuts, only for others to follow in their chicanery in their own hour of need over the years, keeping the gaps open. The perimeter hedge too has the occasional gap that doesn't look like it was part of the original design; whether it's from people clocking out early, or from parents busting in to rescue lost and distressed offspring isn't clear.
Don't fancy getting lost yourself? A wooden ramp to the right of the entrance takes you up to a wooden viewing platform, raised a smidge higher than the maze itself — ideal for keeping an eye on kids who insist on going in by themselves. Alternatively, a wide gravel path runs around the perimeter of the maze, smattered with wooden benches.
From what we can just about decipher on that worn and weathered information board, the whole maze project was part of ITV's millennium Year of Promise campaign. Halfway around the perimeter path, a bench is laden with plaques featuring people's promises for the year ahead. No further context is given, though some are childlike, while others mention a partner, a grandson, a degree, alluding to adulthood.
The Millennium Yew Maze can be found in Brent Lodge Park. It's around a 10-minute walk from Hanwell station on the Elizabeth line. Entry is free, and there are toilets, a small cafe/ice cream kiosk and a children's playground a few steps away.
All photos by Londonist.