Pebble Mosaic Garden Paving At Gresgarth Hall, Lancashire

Part of the joy of visiting Gresgarth Hall Garden is the chance to admire so many well-sourced, premium quality garden accessories – all the bits and bats as we say up North. Each thoughtful touch beautifully enhances the space, from the frog decorated tap (faucet), to garden benches, gates, cloches, terracotta planters, greenhouses – even the plant labels. The lady of the house, Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd, includes five gold medal-winning Chelsea Flower Show gardens amongst her credits as a landscape designer. So the stone mosaic walkways in Gresgarth’s Zodiac Garden are par for the course: superb modern interpretations of an ancient art.

Pebble paving design: lion and sun motif
The Zodiac Garden’s hand-made pebble mosaic pathway features astrological signs (in this case, Leo) representing family members.

Knowing that pebble floor designs of ancient Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia still exist today makes me wonder how many centuries these designs will live on the garden pathway. 

Decorative pebble floor medallion of a bull
A 3D effect is created where the creatures overlap their borders, and by the use of darker and lighter coloured pebbles.

The pebble mosaics were designed by local artist, Maggy Howarth. Her studio, Cobblestone Designs, has established a reputation as one of the best in the country for decorative mosaic floorscapes. Some years ago, Maggy was fortunate to recognise the early promise of Mark Currie, who still works alongside her, creating the mosaics and overseeing their installation.

Many of Maggy’s designs are custom-made for the space, as is this one. A rectangular path laid around Gresgarth Hall’s Zodiac Garden connects three entrances that lead variously to the house, the double perennial border, and out across the lawn towards the kitchen garden.

A swirl design pebble path leads through a winter garden
A spiral pattern links the decorative motifs in each corner

A flowing Milky Way design of swirls and stars trails down the garden paths, sweeping the eye to square and circular features that embellish the corners and entrances. Four astrological signs represent members of the family. Leo and Taurus are unambiguous; the other horned beastie follows the traditional representation of Capricorn, the sea goat.

Sea goat pebble mosaic
Elements used in the decorative border for the Capricorn motif echo the scales in its tail

The subtle variations in shapes, textures and colour play a big part in the mosaic’s appeal. Selecting just the right pebble must play a big part in the creative process. I imagine it being very relaxing, providing you have a good stock of different colours of water-smoothed pebbles, plenty of time, and the instinct for how and where to place them.

A winged figure with headdress and gown picked out in pebbles in shades of black, red, slate, brown and cream is Virgo, often represented as a winged maiden.

A lady with headdress, wings and dress made from coloured pebbles
A winged Virgo carries stalks of wheat

A temple with an ancient-looking olive tree nods in courtesy to the Italian birthplace of Lady Arabella:

Olive tree framed by a classical style temple
In this panel, fine detail has been added to the grey stones
Swirl pebble path with image of a man blowing to create the winds
A chubby cheeked figure puffs a Milky Way of swirls and stars down the paths

A face from above anchors the design visually and metaphorically by blowing out the pattern of swirling clouds, reminding me of Aeolus, keeper of the winds. Funny how we seem to see the heavens so clearly while looking down at the floor! A personification of lightning appears in the top left.

The plants used in the garden itself are classical choices too. Elegant box cones, santolina and grasses lay down a backdrop of silver-greys, neutrals and greens that work almost as well in winter as they do through spring, summer and autumn. This early summer view of the garden shows how fresh greenery and silvery-pink hardy geraniums brighten the area as the seasons progress:

A swirl-effect stone path, flanked by greenery
The path edges are softened by plants that spill over on to the pebble walkway

Links for more information

Maggy Howarth’s website for Cobblestone Design includes details of the type of stone used to make the mosaics, and a technical information page that explains how the mosaics are constructed in segments in the studio before being laid on site. For those curious to learn more, Maggy’s books and DVDs explain how you can make pebble mosaics of your own. ‘Art to be walked on’, as she calls it. Plain pebble designs and off-the-shelf mosaic panels are available as well as commissions.

The Gresgarth Hall website has details of the garden’s open days (usually the second Sunday of the month, from February through to November, but please double check the website before making plans to visit).

See more of Cobblestone Design’s work at Bonnington House, the private home of the owners of Jupiter Artlands.


63 Replies to “Pebble Mosaic Garden Paving At Gresgarth Hall, Lancashire”

  1. These are stunning! The planting and mosaics are so harmonious. This is clearly a place I must make time to visit.

  2. Those are so very clever. Oh to have the pebbles, the expertise, the ability…….

    1. Seeing them does make you wish you could do something similar, doesn’t it? They sell the pebbles online, so we could tick that bit off, but when it comes to expertise and ability…

  3. I am flabbergasted! All sort of words are exploding in my head, trying to say something about this post! For one thing, the names. Lady Arabella? Gresgarth Hall? The names alone have wonders in them. But this path and its garden are too much for me. I don’t have the words. The ultimate touch is Aeolus. What a brilliant design to tie it all together. I loved your comment about seeing the heavens by looking down. I do hope this lasts for centuries!

  4. Fabulous photos! I only took a few of the mosaics during my visit…what was I thinking? I give a program on romantic gardens and almost all the photos are of Gresgarth Hall. What a place! Fingers crossed I see it again someday. Have you ever met Lady Arabella?

    1. I haven’t so far as I’m aware. I can understand your not having too many pictures of the mosaics – there’s so much to catch the eye there and if you’re leading a group, you probably put everyone else first. Do you feature a shot of the row boat on the lake? That always looks very romantic.

      1. Yes 🙂 I look forward to the future photos. Your photography is so pretty, it’s always a pleasure looking at them. Your mindful approach to all this is very inspiring to me because I need to bring more mindfulness into my life and it’s been somewhat neglected. Your experience is a lovely reminder to make the most of the now, grab that shot that later on will continue bringing a smile on my face. Have a lovely week end!

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