Thursday, March 14, 2024

Grass Labyrinth

  Planning the Lab

I'm partial to the classic 11-circuit Chartres labyrinth pattern.  I have made a smaller one once and can someday include the plans for that one.  For now, I'll show you how to make the 11 circuit labyrinth.

OK--Here is a photo of the smaller one.  It was custom made to fit a 24 foot room (I think the canvas is actually 20 feet square).  Because there are fewer circuits the path is a bit larger and easier for an adult to walk freely.  I intended to walk this one indoors in the fellowship hall of this building but you can see how pretty it was outside that day:

The first thing you'll do when planning a labyrinth is figure out how big you want it and there are two ways to approach the issue: (1) are you limited by the size of the lab?  (Does it have to fit in a rooms of a certain size or a field of a certain size?) or (2) do you have a specific path size in mind?

Your magic number is 26.  I ended up with this number because you have the circuits plus the center and the center is twice the size of the circuits so your measurements will be 11 circuits plus 2 and that's just the radius.  Double that for the diameter.  11+2=13  and 13X2=26

If you have all the room in the world,  maybe you have a pasture of fairly unlimited size and you want a good size path--say, a 30" path-- then you will take 30" and multiply that by 26, giving you 780 inches or 65 feet.  You will want a space that is at least 65 feet across for this labyrinth.

But if you have a room that is only 30 feet square and you wonder if you can fit a lab in it you will take 30 and transfer that into inches:  12X30=  384 then divide it by 26 giving you 14.77 inches for a path.  I would round down generously to give myself space to paint and expect a 14 inch path in that room.

Twelve inches is about the smallest you could comfortable go for a labyrinth path and even then you might need to walk with only one foot in the path at times.  Kids could walk this path easily but it wouldn't be as comfortable for adults.  It would be much better to go with a lab that had fewer circuits and a wider path.


The good news for making a grass labyrinth is that it doesn't take a whole lot of equipment to make initially.  It does, however, take a lot of paint to maintain once you have it painted--especially in the growing season.   To lay out the lab only takes several lengths of rope, a couple of painting sticks, some tent stakes, a yardstick and a case of marking paint.  The paint comes in orange or white and I usually use orange.  To maintain the lab takes a case of paint about every other time you mow or when the paint fades in the sun. Fortunately, that doesn't happen nearly as often as you might think.


Once you have a your large amount of land set aside and a sturdy center stake make some ropes that will become permanent markers for measuring and setting up the lab. Make a copy of this diagram to keep in your pocket as you set up the labyrinth.

Lay the ropes at your entrance:

1.  lay the center  rope it doesn't measure anything or mark anything.  it's simply a reference point.
2.  lay the two ropes named Larry and Carlos 15" on either side of the center rope.  keep the ropes parallel
3.  lay the two ropes named Ralph and Lucy 30" on either side of Larry and Carlos.  Use your marking stick to make sure the ropes stay parallel
4.  lay Rita 30" beside Ralph

then lay the ropes for the North, East and West quadrants (remember this referance has nothing to do with the actual directions, it's just a word here)

You will have three parallel lines off the center stake running parallel, each anchored by a stake in the ground.

Now, let's go out to the field and start laying it out.  There about three parts to the layout.  The circuits.  The turn-arounds on three of the quadrants and then the entrance. 

I have learned that it is better to paint the circuits first before I do the turn-arounds.  And I have learned that it takes patience and a couple of friends.  This is the tedious part of the job.  Just start painting circuits using the marking rope.  Make sure to keep the rope straight.  Don't let it get caught up on the stake or clumps of grass and don't stretch it too tight.  Stretching the rope changes the dimensions.  Just a nice steady tension to keep the rope straight.  Mark a quick dot of paint to make a dotted line that you can follow with a solid line later.  .  Be sure to stop at the parallel ropes marking the turn-arounds.  Do NOT mark past the named ropes or the turn-arounds  

Finish all the circuits.  

Then mark the turn-arounds for North, East and West.

Now you can tackle the Entrance.  

Notice that Carlos makes a solid unbroken line from the entrance to the center of the lab.  You can paint right over that rope with confidence to mark the line. 

Take some duct tape and the marker rope and tape a tag onto Ralph where the marker rope hits Ralph at lines 8 and 6  and then again 1 and 2.  these are places that are not to be painted.  You can lay the rope on the ground and proceed to paint the path right on top of the rope since this rope will always be used this way.  

Larry gets taped off for lines 11 and 12 and 5 through 7.  Paint Larry.  

Watch the video to get a feel for how I lay out the lab.

The turn-arounds are a little trickier:

I'm going to show you three diagrams.  The lab is broken down into four quadrants.  I call them North, East, West and Entrance no matter what direction your lab is in.  I never was good at directions and they mean nothing to me anyway.  I hope it doesn't matter to you.  They are just arbitrary names.  The North, East and West quadrants are the easiest.  I'll save the Entrance for last since it's the hardest.

Let's start with the North quadrant and mark it off:

Attach a rope to the center stake and run it straight to the edge of the outside of the lab opposite your entrance.  Take your measuring stick that's a path wide and mark a path width one side of the center stake and place a tent stake, running a rope out to the edge of the lab.  Place another tent stake on the other side of the center stake a path width and run the third rope.  Make sure all three ropes are parallel with a path width space between them.  .  Check the diagram.

Now refer to your numbered diagram to see which numbered lines make the turns.  For the North quadrant this would be lines 1 and 3 wrap around 2.  4 and 6 wrap around 5....7 and 9 wrap around 8 and 10 and 12 wrap around 11.  Take the paint stick and paint the ground.

Here are the diagrams for the other two quadrants:

East Quadrant


Look at the diagram for a minute:

Then mark the left side of the entrance

The nice thing about grass and paint is that neither one is permanent.  You can always fix mistakes.  You might even get a can of brown paint to paint over big errors.  Brown or green paint.

And you can always fix mistakes: