The National Trust has announced the start of its fundraising appeal for the next phase of the restoration of the famous gardens of Stowe.
In its 18th century heyday, Stowe was the jewel in Britain’s crown of magnificent landscape gardens.
Visitors flocked to marvel at its scale and splendour, its classical temples and statues.
Today many of these monuments are gone, temples are crumbling and hundreds of trees need replanting.
Work began last year to restore many 18th century features, thanks to the support of an anonymous donor. But more funds are needed.
The donor has offered to match any funds raised by the new appeal, pound for pound.
This will be the third phase of a programme of restoration which started in 1990 when the gardens were handed to the National Trust.
The first phase involved major landscape work.
Phase two transformed the derelict New Inn into a visitor centre, which opened in 2012.
The new phase will include the return of replica statues and stabilisation work to the Temple of Friendship, which was all but destroyed in a fire in the 1840s. The reinstatement of paths will open up areas of the gardens not currently open to the public.
The work is due to be completed in 2019, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Trust’s ownership.
Buckingham-born head gardener Barry Smith, who has worked at Stowe for over 35 years, said: “At Stowe every statue represents a story, and every path and temple tell a tale.
“It was one of the world’s earliest examples of a landscape garden, and one of the earliest creations of Capability Brown, whose iconic landscape designs made him famous to this day.”