How the Maze was Made

2004 was our first year of growing a maize maze at Wistow, and we had no idea how much time and hard work it was going to be. The set-up costs seemed to spiral daily and was very quickly more than double the £20,000 we originally estimated. Despite many unexpected problems, we soldiered on and were delighted to win the award for Leicestershire’s Best Visitor Attraction of the Year 2004/5. It certainly made all the hard work worthwhile to be acknowledged, and to know that a vast majority of our 15,000 visitors had really enjoyed the experience and had had a thoroughly enjoyable family day out.

After complications in obtaining planning consent and satisfying highway safety issues, the car park was seeded to grass. The main field was ploughed and in late April we planted the 10-acre field with maize and pelleted fertiliser.

At this stage the design had only been seen on a computer. But with specialised software, the maze image was geo-referenced into a satellite-compatible format, enabling highly skilled geotechnical engineers to walk the site with their Leica GPS 530 using differential GPS and a local base station. The position of every path, curve and void in the maze design was accurately plotted across thousands of square metres.

The GPS is accurate to within 10 centimetres, enabling 1,600 numbered flags to be placed all over the field. Checking the areas of unwanted maize against a large map, a specialist hand sprayer was carefully used to mark the paths (which were then hand-picked out when a few inches high), while the remaining crop is left to grow and form the maze.

The alternative to GPS mapping is to manually transfer the complex maze design from a piece of paper to the ground using grid squares and string, and then pluck out each young plant by hand – back breaking and equally time consuming, we are told.

Bridges and towers are manually carried into the maze and assembled on the spot, trying to avoid stepping on the growing maize. The Funyard is laid out before opening, and constant mowing, litter clearance and repairs to the maze kept the staff of 8 busy for months. Safety issues and risk assessments were addressed, fencing installed, and road signs erected.

20,000 flyers were printed and distributed, Tourist offices were notified and local journalists alerted. Radio and TV played their part. Countless press releases, prompts, e-mails and telephone calls were necessary.

Last years weather was a huge problem, with 3 extremely wet weeks in May when the maize just wasn’t growing at all. So we called on our local vicar who, during a service on Rogation Sunday, kindly agreed to walk the congregation from neighbouring St.Wistan’s Church to the maize field, and bless it!

The sun duly shone, and the maze grew – it was over 2m high by the end of July. We were then hit with the wettest August since records began and the paths became extremely muddy and slippery, the car park became a quagmire and many stiletto shoes were ruined – we could have made a fortune selling welly boots!

The maize grew taller, and the corn cobs swelled. Annoyingly, many people picked the cobs thinking they could eat them for supper, but being a variety of maize specifically grown for cattle (and not for humans), it would have been disgusting and as tough as old boots however long it was boiled.

The field was finally harvested in October and fed to the cows. (All the maize is used including the corn, leaves and stalks, being finely chopped and mixed together for winter feed).

Links to other websites

Great Days Out in the UK

Wistow Maze and Things to do in Leicester

Things to do with kids in England

Market Harborough shopping and services directory