Many Londoners have plans to get lost in the countryside surrounding the capital, something you can do quite literally at these mazes and labyrinths. Being made from crops, most of them are at their best in summer, and are ideally located for kids (and big kids) looking for an unusual day out.
The Maize Maze at Penshurst Place, Kent
Penshurst Place near Tonbridge in Kent is a 14th century manor house with plenty to offer for family days out. A woodland trail and adventure playground offer year-round ways to let off steam, and in the summer months, a maize maze also opens.
It's recommended you allow around 40 minutes to complete the maze, which involves collect clues from hidden checkpoints dotted among the crops.
Open: 13 July-1 September 2019.
Mazes at Hever Castle, Kent
Anne Boleyn's childhood home, Hever Castle, is graced with two mazes in it glorious grounds. The first, a yew maze, consists of a quarter of a mile of pathways, and is over 100 years old, with hedges reaching up to 8ft tall. It was installed by William Waldorf Astor, the castle's owner in the Edwardian period, for his own personal fun — little did he know that thousands of children on school trips would later race through it every year.
Less traditional is Hever Castle's water maze, consisting of a series of stepping stones over a lake, leading to a grotto in the centre. It's not as innocent as it looks — hidden water jets burst into action at strategic points, soaking those attempting to tackle it. As parents know, kids can't resist getting wet, so a towel and change of clothes is advised.
The castle itself isn't too shabby either.
Open: Yew maze is open year-round, weather permitting. Water maze is open 30 March-28 October 2019.
The giant maize maze at Lower Ladysden Farm, Kent
Predominantly a fruit farm and shop, Lower Laysden has a bit of fun each year designing a new layout for its summer maze. The labyrinth is created from maize plants, and raises money for charity.
Open: mid July-September. The farm runs a separate Halloween maze event in October.
The Maze at Leeds Castle, Kent
Leeds Castle really is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only is it a beautiful building surrounded by a very photogenic lake, it's also got a golf course, a bird of prey centre, a rather niche museum, a hidden underground grotto... and a maze created from 2,400 yew trees.
Yew may well find yourself rather stumped by its design — although it's set in a square, the paths themselves are circular-shaped, which rather messes with the mind. Well-established trees mean there's no cheating by peeking over, but the mound in the middle does offer a raised viewpoint from which to plot your escape.
(It's another castle that's worth a visit in its own right).
Open: year round.
The Original Great Maze at Blake Craft Centre, Braintree, Essex
The Original Great Maze at Blake Craft Centre has been going for 20 years, carved out of the maize plants in a 10-acre field each summer. With over five miles of pathways, it's one of the larger mazes on this list, and a new design each year keeps it interesting. You can buy yourself a map for a £1.50 deposit — and if you return it unopened at the end, you get your money back. There's also a viewing platform at the end, for you to look back at the route you've just taken.
Open: 20 July-8 September 2019.
New House Farm Maze, West Sussex
Following 2017's Star Wars adventure, and last year's dinosaur theme, New House Farm Maze has gone all alien this year. Some unexpected visitors landed in the fields early one morning and left their mark in the maize — and it's up to visitors to find the clues within the maze to send them back to their home planet.
Ice creams and refreshments are available on site to fuel you up before you set off, or replenish your energy levels on your safe return.
Open: 27 July-1 September 2019.
The Essex Corn Maze at Colchester and Basildon, Essex
With locations in both Colchester and Basildon, The Corn Maze offers two opportunities to get lost in the Essex countryside. As it's corn rather than maize, it's more of an autumn happening than a summer day out — keep an eye on the website for details of this year's maize, with a pumpkin patch running alongside it.
And a few mazes a bit further afield, for a longer day trip:
- The maze at Basildon Park, Berkshire
- The wildlife maize maze at Bucklebury Farm Park, Berkshire
- Hoo Hill Maze in Bedfordshire
- Stansted Maze in Hampshire
- Millets Farm Centre maize maze, Oxfordshire.