In its 18th-century heyday, Stowe was the jewel in Britain's crown of landscape gardens. Visitors flocked from far and wide to marvel at its scale and splendour, complete with classical temples and statues of ancient heroes.
Today many of these monuments and statues are gone, temples are crumbling and hundreds of trees need replanting. Work began last year on 54 different tasks to restore or reinstate many important 18th-century features, thanks to the support of an anonymous donor who has supported Stowe in the past.
The anonymous donor has now offered to match any funds raised by the National Trust's appeal, pound for pound.
Head gardener Barry Smith, who was born in Buckingham and has worked at Stowe for more than 30 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 Lancelot 'Capability' Brown whose iconic landscape designs made him famous to this day.
He added: "We want people to come and enjoy the stories of Stowe for generations to come. I truly believe that Stowe has the potential to once again be one of Britain's most beautiful gardens."
This is the third phase of an ongoing programme of restoration which started in 1989 when the gardens were handed to the National Trust. It will include the reinstatement of faithful replicas of the original statues to the Grecian Valley and repairs to the façade of the Temple of Friendship which was all but destroyed in a fire in the early 1800s.
Reinstated paths will open up areas of the gardens which are not currently open to the public. This phase of work is due to complete in 2019, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the National Trust's ownership of the gardens of Stowe.