We are very excited to welcome Nelly, our new rare breed pig and her piglets to the Adventure Farm, recently purchased after winning 2nd prize at the Staffordshire County Show.
Nelly is an Oxford Sandy Black, a rare traditional breed which is one of the oldest in England (dating back 300 years). The breed, also known as the “Plum Pudding” or “Oxford Forest” pig, has nearly been extinct twice. However, due to a concerted effort they are not slowly but steadily increasing in number.
They are known for having lovely temperaments and they make excellent mothers as well as producing very good quality meat. They make very good outdoor pigs, being very skilful foragers! One of Nellie’s youngsters looks like being a future show piglet, displaying the key characteristic of 14 even teats, 7 down each side.
With their distinctive colouring of black spots on brown, they all make a very attractive family and the piglets are full of fun and already a great hit with our visitors.
On Saturday 5th August over 400 visitors helped us to raise a huge £2,425.00 for the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity at a special Twilight Maize Maze event at the Farm.
Visitors had the unique experience of navigating our 10 acre pirate-themed maize maze at dusk. Entertainment was provided by the Farm’s pirates, Captain Del Gardo and First Mate Eel Breath. There was also a bar, BBQ and disco for visitors to enjoy.
Ivor Robinson, the Farm Director commented: “We’re delighted that so many people came and enjoyed the evening and that we raised so much for this important charity.”
Katie West, Fundraising Manager for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity said: “We are very grateful to the National Forest Adventure Farm for choosing to raise money for our charity. With each air ambulance mission costing on average £2,500, funds raised from the event will help to fund a future lifesaving mission.”
There has been a Maize Maze at the National Forest Adventure Farm since 2004. Here’s a Q&A with Farmer and Adventure Farm Director, Tom Robinson on how the Maize Maze is created:
Time Lapse Video of the Maize Maze Growing
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 over 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 the 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?
“Many farms and farmers are diversifying. 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.”
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”
Maize Maze Facts
625,000 seeds have been planted 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 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
Last week we had our biggest ever school trip! 300 children from Marsh Hill Primary School in Birmingham enjoyed a day out at the Adventure Farm. The children took part in a scarecrow workshop, each making their own mini scarecrow to take home with them.
The Adventure Farm was able to offer 60 free places to Marsh Hill pupils as a part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. We can provide 25 free class trips per year to schools with a higher than average number of students with pupil premiums.
We offer a wide range of school and nursery workshops based around food, farming and also popular stories such as “We’re Going on a Bearhunt”. The workshop are tailored to fit with Early Years and Key Stage 1 curriculums.
Barton under Needwood RUFC players have begun a novel fitness regime to prepare for next season. They’ve been using our equipment to get farm fit. The weekly training sessions see the team pulling tractors, lifting tractor tyres and even exercising their core muscles by jumping on the bouncy pillow. The team work on their body strength with hill relay races with weights and lifting barrels. They finish the sessions with a run around the animal paddocks.
Our Halloween pumpkins have been planted today by Fiona, Molly and Dorian from family business Pumpkins R Us. The crop should give us 6,000 pumpkins in 3 different varieties so there will be plenty to choose from come October half term holiday. Our popular Halloween Spooktacular event includes a FREE pumpkin for all paying children, haunted house, broomstick training, scare school, a maze mummy hunt and much more.