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The Different Types of Outdoor Mazes



Many people have a fixed idea of what puzzles are in their minds but they don't just have to be indoor activities or an activity in which you are stationary and one such puzzle is a maze. Mazes come in all sorts of forms from a toy that you can play with in your hands to the one you find in a book that is a picture but a real-life one allows somebody to be in it. These real-life ones also have variety themselves as the walls that define the path and challenge can be plant-based or made from stone or can even be made from materials like plastic, metal, glass or mirrors which allow for different experiences and can help or hinder your quest to solve the challenge. The heights of the walls can also vary from being as low as knee height to towering over a person so even the tallest person could not look over them which can make the task of completing the challenge much more difficult if there are diverging paths to choose from and the walls cannot be seen or passed through. Mazes are still being built today, even after thousands of years of their existence, as they can be a very popular tourist attraction and incorporating new technology can give a modern twist to an ancient challenge. They can be an ideal family activity that is a good opportunity to get everybody out of the house into the fresh air and young or old can participate.


The Challenge(s) Of an Outdoor Maze


A maze is not always a brain teaser to be solved and can just be a single path with no diverging paths to encounter that you follow to the endpoint so is just more of an interesting walk that gets you from A to B. It can, on the other hand, be very much a brain teaser and force the participant to think and strategize in order to solve it so can have, for example, many fork in the road points in which you must choose from multiple paths that could lead to dead ends or lead to you going around in circles and back to where you started. The parts of the maze can all look the same or very similar which can be a deliberate ploy to confuse so the participant feels lost as there is nothing to mark out as a reference point to help get their bearings and find their way. The paths can be often straight which means they can then have right-angle turns and if the walls are tall enough and can't be seen through then the participant will have no idea what is around the corner until they turn the corner which makes it difficult to plan ahead. The paths can, on the other hand, be curved or spiral which can be a dizzying and disorientating experience to walk through them and again if the walls are tall enough and they can't be seen through then it can be that you won't be able to see that far down the path you are on which will make plotting your route very difficult. The goal or final destination of the maze could be at the centre which is often the case and sometimes there is a reward for getting there in the form of a vantage point or some contraption to employ to signal the challenge is complete or the final destination is simply to find the exit door that will be often on the perimeter. The participants will often be helped in their quest to solve a maze by being given a map or there being observation points or checkpoints along the way to ensure that if the course is a tricky one then all participants should be able to finish it no matter their skill level. A treasure hunt is often part of the maze challenge in which items need to be located within it and ticked off and how difficult this is will be determined by how big the items are, how many there are, how far apart they are, do they stand out against the backdrop of the maze in terms of shape and colour and if they are being covered or obscured from sight. Some people will intentionally get lost in a maze by going down paths and intentionally not remembering anything from entering the challenge until they get to a certain point in which they are well within the midst of the course in order to test how they would cope with this situation. The weather may also play a part in how difficult the task is as it could take longer to complete if it is raining and therefore the path is muddy or there is fog or bad light which really could make completing the task a nightmare but could also be a lot of fun.


This Activity Done Competitively


A maze can have a competitive element to it in which you could compete with a friend or family member or just the other participants that are there that day to see who can complete it first. This would work well with a large course as there can then be plenty of space for different and diverging routes for the competing participants to go their separate ways. If it is, on the other hand, a small course with little space and very few different paths to choose from in it then you would end up just following each other around unless one participant doesn't start the maze until the other one has finished. Who completes the maze first might be the result of a foot race, if that is even allowed, and thus a person's physical attributes can determine how quickly they solve the maze. Some mazes will display the personal best times before you enter possibly at the entry gate or with a giveaway pamphlet which you can try to better and use as motivation but you will unlikely beat this record unless you have a return visit so you can then do the maze from memory and avoid all the wrong moves you made on the previous attempt. If you are not competitive, however, then you could just work together with the group or other people you are with as two minds are often better than one and one person from the group could, for example, test a path on a sort of reconnaissance mission to see if it is a dead-end and then come back and tell the rest of the group whether to this is a path to avoid or to proceed on. The treasure hunt is another maze challenge that would work well as a competition so it could be which individual can find all the items first or work together as teams, which could obviously be a quicker way to find all the items, to compete against other teams.


Practising Beforehand


You could even practice beforehand in preparation for an outdoor maze from the comfort of your home by doing an online computer-simulated one in order to learn and practice the techniques and strategies that you can then implement in a real-life one. It cannot replicate the feel or smell of real-life mazes so it is not the exact same experience but can more importantly visually and possibly even audibly replicate an outdoor maze challenge in order to produce a similar experience for practice purposes. It will be doubtful that you will be able to get the same maze you are going to try in real life as a computer simulation game but there will be elements of it that will likely be common to a lot of mazes so these elements will likely show up in virtual online ones. An alternative to the just mentioned practice approach would be youtube videos of mazes in which people give you their views that they have recorded on their phone or other video recording device in which it shows the experience of the participant as they pass through the maze. You would, in this case, be not in control of where the video goes but you can learn from the mistakes and successes the person makes in the video and devise a strategy from what you see and the tips that are given. There is way more chance of the maze you are going to participate in being a youtube video than an online computer simulation game which is especially true of the more popular mazes in which there may be videos of full walkthroughs which you may not want to see as this would give away the solution. The comments section under these videos could be a good source of information about the maze, especially from anybody claiming to have already participated in it. Any sort of maze be it pictorial in a book or a toy could be decent practice for a real-life outdoor one in terms of solving a maze but an online computer simulation game or youtube video will be the best preparation as they give a 3D experience and put you in the challenge.


Hedge Outdoor Mazes


Hedge Mazes have walls made up of plants that mark out the challenge or path and can often be attached to a property as in they are located in a garden such as on the grounds of a manor or mansion or historical building. They are very common and popular in a place like Britain with examples being the Leeds Castle Maze in Kent, Chatsworth House Maze in Derbyshire and Longleat Hedge Maze in Wiltshire. In Britain and a lot of places around the world, it can be that they are not open all year round due to the bad weather, in particular, the winter months and lack of daylight hours. This bad weather can lead to the maze wall hedges losing their leaves which could ruin the challenge and the freezing conditions could be unsafe and unpleasant. This kind of maze needs regular maintenance in terms of not allowing the hedges to overgrow and the difficulty of maintaining it will depend on the size of it, the plants that make up the hedge walls, the number of staff and the climate which may require a large team of people to maintain it. Hedge walls can be sculpted into all sorts of shapes which is a reason why there are real-life hedge mazes that look very different in appearance from each other and thus give a different experience and challenge for the participants from each other. The plants that make up the wall will determine whether it is possible to see through the maze walls or even pass through them which will, therefore, determine how difficult the challenge is. The use of plants for the walls means you could have all the walls of the maze be of the same plant which is often the case or have as many different varieties as you want to ensure the journey through the course doesn't feel all the same and keep giving the participants something new to look at as plants come in many different forms and colours. A hedge maze doesn't just give those taking part a visual display but also the smell of the flowers can also be part of the attraction and its appeal with a good example of this being a lavender maze like the one in Yorkshire, England or The Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens in Australia with the latter also having a rose garden that would also omit fragrant smells. The downside to a hedge maze is that it can be very difficult to change the layout or path routes as the hedges are mostly permanent structures that have been planted in the ground so it is essentially stuck offering the same challenge compared to a corn maze that has the ability to change every year.


Corn Outdoor Mazes


Corn mazes are another popular plant-based maze that are situated all over the world and are cornfields that have had paths inserted into them by chopping down the corn. They can vary in size although they are usually quite big and the paths long so expect this activity to take up a couple of hours if not longer. The paths can be narrow as well as long so participants could be brushing up alongside the crops which can mean walking single file or they can be wide because of the picture design the paths are creating and also as to not discourage people who are claustrophobic from participating in it. Corn crops make a useful maze wall because there are varieties of them that can grow above human height and maintain an upright position and if there are a number of rows of the plant in the wall then they will be difficult if not impossible to see through. This type of maze, in particular, allows for incredible creativity and imagination in the layout of the paths that from a bird's-eye view can show a picture. The layout of the maze can be changed on what is often a yearly basis in order to constantly be offering a new challenge and experience so that participants will keep coming back. The Richardson Corn Maze is a great example of this type of maze that is in Illinois in the USA that incorporates impressive creative designs of famous landmarks and people that are vast in size and is on a farm with lots of other activities to keep people occupied including the farm animals. The downsides of this type of maze are that it can be sometimes easy to pass through the walls which would give the temptation to cheat and that it can look and feel the same all the way through the course which means the experience can be monotonous and repetitive after a while. Bugs can also be an issue so if they make you squeamish then it would be best to avoid this type of maze or bring with you some sort of bug repellant.


An Ideal Holiday Activity


A maze is a perfect opportunity to get out of the house to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise which will be all the more enjoyable and most suitable for when the sun is shining. It could also be a great holiday activity for you to check off so you can create some memories and stop yourself from just sunbathing at the beach or lying beside the pool the whole time. There may be one near the place you are intending to holiday as there are so many of them in a lot of countries the chances are good there will be one near you but it is worth checking before you choose your holiday destination to see if there is a maze nearby as it may sway your decision on where you choose to holiday. A good example of one that is located at a popular holiday destination and has mostly great weather is the huge Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze that is located in Hawaii that has part of it shaped like a giant pineapple and the location stays warm throughout the year and has mostly sunny days which offers plenty of other activities to keep people entertained. When the weather is sunny during the summer months will probably be the best time to visit any maze in general as it is the best chance of it being open and this period of time will have the most daylight hours so you have more time to enjoy the activity. The summer weather will mean if it is a plant-based maze then the flowers should have blossomed and it should, therefore, be at its most attractive and fragrant during this period. The walls of this activity can provide relief from the sun as well in terms of shade if the heat and the sun is becoming too much.


Outdoor Mazes That Have Walls Which Don’t Consist of Plants or Trees


A maze that isn't plant-based will have a very different feel to it than a plant-based one with the latter feeling like you are walking through a garden especially hedge ones whilst, for instance, a maze with stone walls can feel more like going through a building with corridors. A stone wall can be built in a way to ensure that the participants can't see through it or be able to pass through it and can be an extremely solid structure that doesn't need as much maintenance as other forms of mazes. Stone mazes can vary in appearance from each other in terms of the texture and colour of the stone they are made up of as the type of stone they consist of can vary from each other and the way the walls they contain are constructed with the stone they are made up of can vary from each other as well. However, stone walls are permanent structures, such as the one at Donnafugata Castle in Italy, which means the course cannot be changed on a regular basis to keep the challenge fresh and interesting and the course will be difficult to change at all. A maze of glass or transparent plastic can allow participants in it to see through the walls which may seem like it would be an easier challenge but it can be difficult to spot the openings in the walls which allow the participants to complete the challenge so you can feel like you are trapped in an invisible barrier. The Minotaur Maze in Kielder, England combines both stone and glass as it has walls made up of rocks in metal cages with the challenge and ultimate goal being to arrive at the turquoise room of glass which gives it a very unique look and experience. Another type of maze not made from plants is one consisting of ice or snow in which you would need freezing temperatures for it so would only be found outdoors in certain countries with the right climate and could only be done in certain countries at particular times of the year namely winter months. The other countries that don't have these freezing outdoor conditions would have to do the activity indoors where the temperature could be controlled. For this type of maze, you would need warm and preferably padded clothing with the right footwear to avoid slipping although sliding through the course will be part of the fun and to give an example of this maze outdoors in real life would be the one in Zakopane, Poland.


Large Courses


A maze can be massive in terms of size and the length of the paths with a great example of this being the very modern Yancheng Dafeng Dream Maze in China which has a series of combined mazes ranging in size and type, with the path walls of the biggest maze shaped into an elk, which makes the place seem more like a theme park. When courses are really big like the one just mentioned then they will obviously take longer to complete and you will have to set aside more time to take part in one which could be all afternoon or even a full day. These larger ones will often have benches or somewhere to take a break as the participants could be walking for a few hours and these rest points can be used as checkpoints or reference points to help them complete the challenge. If the maze offers variation in terms of the look of it, offers plenty of challenges and offers activities to do throughout the course then this will stop it from becoming boring and monotonous so it is worth checking out the challenge it has to offer before committing to it. The larger the course is and the more false paths there are to choose from that could lead to dead ends or around in circles then the more lost you can become especially if you can't see over or through the walls and that there are no or few reference points to help you find your bearings. This sensation of being lost is what some people are looking for when doing this type of challenge or at least have the danger of this happening but there will be ways to help the participant if they do get lost as there could be a way of letting staff know they are lost for example through calling out or there are often exits nearby wherever you are in the maze that are there only if you have had enough and want to quit and not the goal of the challenge. If somebody does get lost then the challenge will take even longer and if that person gets very lost then it could take a great deal longer so how good a person is at solving mazes will determine how long one takes to complete as well. If you are in a group with friends or family it would be better to stick together, especially in a huge course because if you do get separated it may take a long time before you are reunited which might not be until everyone in the group has completed the course.


Small Courses


A maze can be small in size in terms of the area it takes up but can still pack a lot into it as the paths can be very narrow which allows for a lot of paths to be squeezed into a restricted area and therefore complex routes or lots of dead ends can still be incorporated so a small doesn't necessarily mean simple. A great example of a small course with a lot in it is The Labyrinth of Villa Pisani in Italy in which the goal is to reach the centre platform that gives a 360-degree view of the course from above the walls and the surrounding environment. This centre goal seems within touching distance from wherever you are in the maze but always seems closed off so a maze doesn't have to be large in size to get lost in or be challenging. A small maze will obviously be much quicker to complete than some of the very biggest which might be what the participants are looking for just an experience that will last an hour or less as some people don't want to spend their entire day doing one. It may mean you have to wait your turn as it can only fit a certain number of participants at one time and if you are in a group it might be even walking single file as there could be simply not enough room to pass each other by on the maze paths.


The Observation Point(s)


Often with a maze, there will be observation points from which you can view it from above to either plot your course or to be able to see the design of the course from above and the surrounding landscape which depending on the location could be spectacular. Some of these observation points can be very high off the ground so if you are scared of heights they are probably best to avoid with a great example of an observation deck that is extremely high off the ground is the one at the Yancheng Dafeng Dream Maze. These observation points can be bridges or towers or raised platforms that are either the main destination and goal of the challenge or just to help you on your way through the maze. The best view of the course is usually a bird's-eye view that allows the whole course and the entire design of the course to be seen but unless there is a helicopter available nearby then these observation points that are above ground will be the best vantage point to see these often spectacular course designs that could be a picture of something that you might not know is there until you have this from the above view. Might also be nice to get the feel of the breeze that can be sometimes felt with being high up in the air and not having the walls of the maze protecting you from it. These observation points may also help you to spot members of the group you are in if you have become separated unless the walls are so high that you can't see anybody.


Clothing to Wear


What you wear to the maze will depend first on the weather because if it is wet then it will likely be muddy and therefore wellington boots and a rain jacket are preferable and also if you have come by car then that will mean the car is at risk of getting muddy as well. It may be a good idea to bring a change of clothes with you in case they do get dirty or wet as it may be a while before you can get back home to change depending on how far this activity is in distance from your home. If it is hot then just a t-shirt and shorts would be preferable as you will be doing some walking which is a form of exercise so you are likely to work up a bit of a sweat and you don't want to be carrying around a jumper or jacket with you the whole time if you get too hot. I would take a rucksack with you for drinks and snacks as with some mazes you can be in there a while by which I mean hours. Checking the weather in advance then is a good idea and factoring in the type of maze so you can adequately dress and also to ensure that if there is bad weather that the activity will still be available and not cancelled.


Negatives of Outdoor Mazes


The negatives of mazes are if you don't like enclosed spaces or are claustrophobic then you should be wary about doing this activity as a lot of them have narrow paths with tall hedges that could be a nightmare for somebody who has this phobia. Some of them can be very easy to complete even the ones that are supposed to be a challenge and not just a path with walls as they are often meant as a family activity and could lead some people who are looking for a challenge to be dissatisfied. They can be easy to solve when the walls are too low and can be seen over, the walls can be seen through, the walls can be passed through which means participants can cheat, the course is too short, the maze has plenty of items in it and/or unique parts to it that can be used as reference points and there are not enough diverging paths with dead ends or wrong paths to go down. If the weather is terrible then it could be a miserable experience for instance if it is cold, damp and wet then this can make the activity for some no fun at all and a place like England the chances are high these will be the conditions. Other participants can make the experience better or worse just like going to the cinema in which somebody talking through the whole film can be annoying other people bumping into you or barging past you will make the experience unpleasant. The location of the maze could be somewhere that is very isolated and if this is the case then it could mean the activity takes a whole day up in which you have to set aside a few hours just to get to the place and the return journey which may mean the whole experience is not really worth it. A person can get lost in one which can be embarrassing if you need to ask for help and some people really don't like the feeling of being lost as it can for them be quite scary.


Conclusion


In summary, if you enjoy puzzles and want to get outdoors and do some exercise then a maze gives you all of this and as already mentioned in this article there will probably be one near you to participate in but they can be worth travelling a fair distance to seek one out as they can be extremely fun and challenging and varied.

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