Ahoy me hearties – pirates have taken over East Staffordshire’s Maize Maze as visitors are invited to walk the plank if they get lost in the dead ends.
This year’s Maize Maze, at the National Forest Adventure Farm, in Tatenhill, has a pirates them with the 10-acre design featuring a huge 115 metre long Pirate Galleon and 50m wide compass.
The maize, planted in early May, is currently about 1.6 metres high and will grow to more 2.4 metres in August. The maze features three miles of pathways bridges and viewing towers. In this year’s maze families are challenged to find Captain de Gardo’s pirate treasure hidden in 12 famous seaports.
The smaller Mini Maze, ideal for younger children, is the compass. In Pirate Penny’s Mini Maze children can collect the items she needs to set sail for an adventure on the high seas.
Continuing the pirate theme, there will be lots more swashbuckling activities at the farm including Cannonball Chaos. Set deep the maze, children will join the battle firing cannon to defend Captain del Gardo’s ship from his enemies. There are two live Pirate Shows plus Buccaneer Bootcamp where children can learn the skills needed to join the captain’s crew.
Families are also able to meet and feed the animals, cheer on their favourite in the sheep race, pet guinea pigs and watch a milking demonstration. The large outdoor and indoor play areas include a fossil dig sand pit, a new pedal Go-Kart track and huge drop slides.
Maize Maze Facts
- The 10 acre Maize Maze is the size of five and a half football pitches
- 625,000 seeds were planted in early May to create the maze at the Adventure Farm
- The seeds are cross drilled so twice as many seeds are planted to create a denser crop to make a better maze.
- The maze should take about 45 minutes to navigate
- The maize variety is LG Alfa Star
- The crop will be used for silage for either dairy or beef cattle. (The British weather is not ideal for growing maize for human consumption)
- Maize loves sunshine and needs some rain to grow – too wet and its growth is stunted. The Adventure Farm’s maize crop needs 2500 Ontario Units (OHUs) to reach maturity.
- The pirate ship in the maze is 115m tall from top to bottom
More information on the Maize Maze is available at www.adventurefarm.co.uk
Some of the big questions answered by the director
There has been a Maize Maze at the National Forest Adventure Farm since 2004 and farmer and adventure farm director Tom Robinson has shared how the Maize Maze is created:
How is the maize grown?
Maize grows from 0-2.4m (8ft) in just four months from May to August. At the adventure farm, the crop is drilled in early May once the threat of frost has past. We plant about 625,000 seeds in the 10-acre field. We cross drill the field which means we plant seeds in once direction and then we go back over the field at a 90 degree angle. Planting twice as many seeds means the crop is denser making for a better maze. As the maize plant is originally from Mexico, it needs warmth to grow. So far this year we’ve been lucky to have a few very warm spells this year so we’re hoping for a tall maize crop.
How is the maze created?
Once we have decided on the theme we use a professional maze designer to create a plan. In June, when the crop is about 10-20cm tall, we use GPS technology to plot out the maze paths which are marked with more than 1,200 canes. Then we use a mini tractor to rotavate the crop and therefore cut out the paths and the design. For the more intricate detail in the design we actually hoe the crop out by hand. The paths are then rolled to make a suitable walking surface. At the same time we lift in bridges and viewing towers. Just before the maze opens we fly a drone over the maze to check the design and make last minute improvements.
How big is your maize maze? Is it easy to get lost?
The maize field is about 10 acres which is the same size as five and a half football pitches. It usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour to navigate it. We do provide maps for those who want them, however some people do get lost. That’s why we give each group a flag to wave at our maze master who sits on a high viewing tower. Anyone who needs help just waves their flag and is put back on the right track.
Why did you open a Maize Maze?
Diversification is the way the many farms remain financially operational. In 2004 we already had the maze crop planted when I had a brainwave to turn it in to a maze and open to the public. With long hours and determination we, my brother Ivor and I, did it and we’ve been going ever since. Every year we added more and more activities to complement the maze. So much so that we took the plunge in 2011 to be open to the public year round as the National Forest Adventure Farm.
Do you still have a commercial farm?
The Adventure Farm takes up a lot of mine and my brother’s time but yes we still have a commercial farm. We’ve recently moved away from raising beef cattle to sheep farming with approximately 450 animals. We lease land as well as grow oilseeds and wheat.
Why a pirate maze in 2017?
We change the design of the maze every summer. In the past our themes have been as diverse as dinosaurs and a homage to Usain Bolt. This year we have chosen pirates as it is a fun family theme. Also we like to roll the theme out to other activities at the farm. This year’s added entertainment includes Pirate Shows, Buccaneer Bootcamp, Pirate Duck Race and Cannonball Chaos which is set deep the maze itself. The Pirate Galleon in the maze is 115m from main mast to the bottom of the hull and 110m from the tip of the bow to the stern and the compass which forms a Mini Maze is 50m from point to point.
Why do you think people enjoy visiting Maize Mazes?
Navigating a maze on such a large scale is not only a challenge to some but also an enjoyable family day out. Plus you’re out in the summer fresh air in the middle of nature which is a great experience.
How many people are you expecting to visit the maze?
Over the summer holidays, the adventure farm has grown to have 45,000 visitors over the seven-week maze season. As always it’s our aim to give them an enjoyable, value for money day out. Last year our total visitors topped 200,000 for the first time which is not a bad achievement considering we’ve only being open for five years.