Great Linford Manor Park is an 18th century landscape created by Richard Woods (a contemporary of ‘Capability’ Brown). The park is the only heritage landscape in Milton Keynes – a new town created in the 1970’s with green infrastructure at the heart its urban planning process. Great Linford Manor Park is thus an essential point of connection with the landscape character of Milton Keynes.

Woods’ landscape comprised a number of elements synonymous with the English Landscape Movement, revolving around Great Linford Manor House: a sequence of dammed waterbodies cascading down a natural valley; a ‘Wilderness’ Garden; neoclassical ‘eye-catchers’ to form focal points for views; and a ‘Parkland’ separated from the gardens by a Ha-Ha. The identity of these components and the character of the whole site had been lost through decades of under-investment. The later interventions of the Grand Union Canal and the Wolverton to Milton Keynes railway (expressions of the changing relationship between land and infrastructure in the 19th century) further bifurcate the 18th century landscape.


The project was purposed with the restoration of the historic landscape, the exposition on site of a narrative around its development over time and its re-purposing to address current needs in respect of biodiversity, climate change resilience, mental and physical health, and wellbeing. Given the unique development of Milton Keynes as a democratic landscape with green infrastructure at its heart, we consulted extensively with stakeholders on how to restore a landscape that was more evocative of private land ownership and both economic and political privilege. We worked intensively with local communities to discuss how the site had developed from medieval manor into an 18th century country estate and the current functions as a public space and green infrastructure engine room for ecosystem service delivery. Through a series of creative workshops with people of all ages, a series of narratives were created to describe the development of the landscape to demonstrate the community’s adoption of the historic landscape through a creative, research-based process. These narratives took the form of playable art objects in steel, wood and stone by local makers, installed across the site.

A key component of the restoration process was to uncover and restore the historic water garden that was once the centrepiece of Woods’ design. Through careful excavation, we uncovered and restored the three lakes, linked culverts and cascades forming this system. The first of these was a circular pond exactly 30 yards in diameter, linking to historic setting out methods. We identified the ‘Hine Spring’ as the natural groundwater source for these ponds and impounded the spring into a single outlet to provide unpolluted ground water to guarantee water quality within the system. The stone linings of the ponds were restored with local Blisworth limestone (identical to the original linings) sourced from local quarries to reduce the project’s carbon footprint.

The Wilderness Garden of meandering walks and framed views was completely recreated and planted with species that were typical of Woods’ planting. Tree, shrub, and herbaceous plant cultivars were selected that would tolerate the thin limestone soils typical of the site and will rapidly warm as a consequence of climate change.

The significant role played by the site in supporting biodiversity resilience and connectivity and in moderating climate change impacts was a cornerstone of the design. Extensive new tree planting to increase carbon sequestration and address urban heat island effects has been carefully woven into the historic landscape. Wet woodland and aquatic habitats have been protected and enhanced through careful management and areas of species-rich grasslands created in Parkland areas using seed banks from locally sourced wildflower hay.

A celebrated place

In parallel with the capital works project, a programme of community engagement reinforced the connection between local residents and their landscape. This was critical to build resilience around volunteering and the development of green skills in landscape and ecological management. The programme placed a strong emphasis on mental health focusing on the benefits accruing from access to nature for people with dementia and depression. A social prescribing programme was developed in partnership with the local NHS, using the park as a resource.

The Great Linford Manor Park project is a resounding success. In 2023, the project was awarded two BALI National Awards (for Regeneration and Education) and a Civic Trust Regional Award. Since 2019, the park has attracted over 500,000 visitors and has hosted 30,000 participants at over 500 events and activities.

Most significantly, the splendour of the 18th century landscape has been restored to its former glory, reinterpreted for new purposes and new audiences, for generations to come.

Great Linford, Milton Keynes, MK14 5AS, UK

Design year: 2019

Year Completed: 2023


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