The Making of a Maize Maze

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
National Forest Adventure Farm