The Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

I am becoming a bit of a fan of Crystal Palace Park. It is a place with a fascinating history, and is still dotted with many evocative remains of this history, not least the ruins of the original Crystal Palace and the amazing dinosaurs. I’ve visited it many times, but only recently became aware that it is also home to a maze. Visiting the maze has been on my list of magical things to do ever since. This weekend I finally made it, and it was well worth the wait.

The entrance to the Tea  Maze, Crystal Palace Park

The entrance to the Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

There is definitely something magical about mazes. Whether they feature in ancient myths such as the Greek tale of the Minotaur and its underground lair, decorate the floor of medieval cathedrals like Chartres, or even appear in modern movies such as Labyrinth or The Shining, these elaborate puzzles have fascinated us for millennia. Nowadays full size mazes are rare, so finding one almost on my doorstep was a real thrill. The maze in Crystal Palace Park is apparently the largest in London, and although originally created in 1870, its current incarnation is thanks to extensive replanting in 1987 and more recent restoration in 2008. It is now known as the ‘Tea Maze’ thanks to the genteel Victorian fashion for visiting the labyrinth after taking tea in the park.

Entering the labyrinth, Crystal Palace Park

Entering the labyrinth, Crystal Palace Park

The maze in Crystal Palace Park is not that easy to find, so it is perhaps not surprising that it has evaded my notice for so long. It is nestled in a circle of tall trees, largely hidden from view. The hedges of the maze itself are low, meaning that the centre is always just visible in the distance – so temptingly close and yet so annoyingly far away.

The view towards the centre of the Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

The view towards the centre of the Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

Small carved ‘monoliths’ are placed at points around the route, perhaps to help confused visitors remember where they have or have not been. It certainly didn’t help me much, and I will admit to being slightly frustrated and more than a little bit dizzy by the time I stumbled upon the heart of the circular maze. There I found a pretty, peaceful space lined with stone benches, the floor decorated with a motto in carved stone;

pause here for a while

listen for the echoes

past, present, future

follow in their footsteps

The poem at the centre of the Tea Maze, Crystal  Palace Park

The poem at the centre of the Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park

 

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8 Responses to “The Tea Maze, Crystal Palace Park”

  1. Oh that looks like fun 🙂

  2. I remember exploring the Hampton Court Palace maze when visiting the U.K. Here in the northeastern U.S., people will sometimes construct mazes in cornfields (that’s fields of maize for you) in the weeks leading up to Halloween to serve as a paid amusement.

  3. Perhaps you should start a ‘Good Maze Guide’ – it would be lovely to know where they all are. Of all their many guises, I prefer the tall hedge variety, where the temperature drops as you enter and it all goes quiet – umm, deliciously scary.

  4. Enjoyed reading about this! A place to visit in the future.

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