It’s hard to know what to do on a weekend when you’ve exhausted all the beer gardens and already been to Tesco twice. So, this weekend, determined to do something new, we got in the car and headed to the coast to see what we could discover.
Thirty minutes later we parked up at a family attraction, looking up at a 10ft sweetcorn with a face because a signpost told us to. We were at Hemsby MegaMaze and more than a little unsure about whether or not to get out of the car…
From the car park it looks like a couple of giant fields and a shack but the marketing assures you it’s “The most fun you’ll have getting lost in the countryside.”
Entry is £6.50 for adults and £5.50 for children. My boyfriend brandished his student card and was rewarded with a 50p discount. You can also buy a sealed maze map for £1 – if you return the map unopened you get your pound back.
So, what do you do in the middle of a field surrounded by enormous stems of corn? You hunt for stamps that are dotted around the maze and collect points or ‘miles’ as you go. There’s an educational angle but it’s disguised well enough not to be dull. The stamps take you on a food trail which explains how many miles your food could travel before it reaches your plate if you don’t buy locally produced items.
Rather than trying to find your way out, the aim is to take trail after trail to track down all ten foods and collect the travel miles on your entry card.
Ordinarily, turning up at a children’s activity centre as two child-free adults might be embarrassing – there was the time we were given a lapel sticker at the Sea Life Centre and the day I wanted to swap my free orange lolly for strawberry but suffered silently instead and the time I was convinced we were wedged inside the back of a giant snail at Great Yarmouth Seafront. That said, we did see a few solo adults trail blazing, furrowed brow and score card aloft, striding purposefully off in search of ‘parsnips’. It’s reassuring.
There are ten stamps to collect and I’d say it was around the six mark that we started to fade. My boyfriend was threatening to ask strangers if they wanted to swap intel and vowing to search until dusk if we had to.
My attempt to rally spirits by trailing behind him and then jumping off into the maze to hide was met with short shrift as – when he stopped talking to himself and back-tracked – he claimed my trainers were visible and he wasn’t worried in the least. I was hoping to incite a Blair Witch panic moment but was met with those eyes that your Dad does when you’re being exasperating.
We ploughed on and I can tell you I’ve never been so happy to see ‘sugar’ as we rounded the corner of a trail that I’m sure we’d walked moments before! Once you’ve started to find the first few items, the hunt quickly becomes addictive. It’s easier than you’d think to be consumed by a fierce desire to hunt down imaginary food.
Three more to find, light was fading and it was time to consider breaking out the map for three very good reasons – my feet were threatening to bleed, we’re hungry enough to eat the nearest farm animal and we’ve needed the loo for the past two hours.
Map open we trudged defeated to find the elusive corn, strawberry and potato, following the marked route.
When your hope of completing the score card starts to fade you can have fun by sabotaging other people’s attempts to cheat. The ground is full of arrows and X marks that have been etched in the dust in a futile attempt to leave a trail. I gave a few of them a quick scrub out and changed the arrow directions – not very sporting but certainly good for a cheap laugh when you’re losing patience and need a morale boost.
The final stamp was pressed down with weary arms and as the blob of ink died over ‘Potato – 2000 miles‘. We made our way out to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine. If you have the energy there are lots more activities to enjoy alongside the maze; you can try the go-kart track, there’s a zip wire and trampoline for children and a mini croquet game – these are all included in your entry ticket. You can also buy hot and cold food and drinks. If we’d been more prepared, it’s a great place to take a picnic and really enjoy a full day out.
Three hours after arriving, we left the field, complete with a sticker and a lolly each, and got back in the car to drive home. We pass the sign promising “The most fun you’ll have getting lost in the countryside” and both agree that, on reflection, it probably was.
Visit the Hemsby MegaMaze site here