A-mazing! You can become part of the Dry Stone Wall Maze in Dalby Forest for the final time in 2020

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An exciting construction project to create a dry stone wall maze is taking place deep in the heart of Dalby Forest, and you can be part of it for the last time in 2020.

The massive dry stone wall maze, brainchild of Farndale specialist dry stone waller, Mark Ellis, will consist of over 4000 tonnes of locally sourced, reclaimed stone.

Mark conceived the idea for, and designed the maze, which is being built by himself and two other local craftsmen, Mark Simpson and John Wharton.

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Mark first had the idea to build a dry stone wall maze in 1997, and with the help of Ryedale District Council, The Forestry Commission / Dalby Forest and The Friends of Dalby Forest, the first foundation stones were laid in September 2014.

The Briggs Family with their chosen stoneThe Briggs Family with their chosen stone
The Briggs Family with their chosen stone

It is anticipated that the project will take another three to five years to complete.

The maze will be the largest dry stone wall construction in the world. It is so large, it’s outline can clearly be seen on the satellite imagery on Google Maps.

The Friends of Dalby Forest volunteer time and also help to raise funds for the mammoth endeavour, as well as assisting on a range of other Forestry England approved projects.

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One way Forestry England and the Friends of Dalby Forest are raising funds for the project is by running Stone Carving Workshops in the Courtyard.

Charles and Jim Gordon show off their designCharles and Jim Gordon show off their design
Charles and Jim Gordon show off their design

The workshops, which last 2.5 hours, are led by sculptor Peter Maris, allowing people to leave their own mark on the maze. Rural North Yorkshire Community Reporter, Louise Perrin, went along to find out more.

Peter Maris was invited to be the letter cutter at the maze last year and has been leading the stone carving workshops for the last 12 months. He has been invited to return again in 2020.

On arrival, you are welcomed to the classroom with a smile and find yourself surrounded by a variety of stone carvings completed by previous workshops.

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Some of these are really impressive, but what strikes you the most is that each has a story, and Peter Maris knows each one.

Matthew Mardall begins chiselling the outline of his father's initialsMatthew Mardall begins chiselling the outline of his father's initials
Matthew Mardall begins chiselling the outline of his father's initials

Our group comprised a family of four, the Briggs, from Low Marishes, brothers Charles and Jim Gordon, Matthew Mardall, 13, from Bishop Wilton and myself, a community reporter for the Scarborough News.

Peter began by telling us the stories behind some of the stones, those created to mark a special occasion such as a wedding or the birth of a child, those created to celebrate significant milestones or anniversaries and those created in memory of a loved one.

Peter inspires you to create something special, a design that reflects your own personality, and he makes you believe that you can too.

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Peter begins by getting you to draw out the design on paper. Letters are around ¼ inch wide and a maximum of 2.5 inches high. Because chiselling the letters simply creates stone coloured letters on a stone coloured background, Peter encourages you to chisel each letter in the shape of a V to capture as much light and shade as possible.

The Briggs men look on as Deanna chisels their stoneThe Briggs men look on as Deanna chisels their stone
The Briggs men look on as Deanna chisels their stone

The Briggs family were creating their stone to celebrate son Alex’s 30th birthday. Alex, box office manager at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, joined brother Chris, a graphic designer, mum Deanna, an exam invigilator and dad John, an engineering manager.

The group visited Dalby many times growing up and used a compass as the centrepoint of their design, representing their love of exploring the forest.

Brothers Jim and Charles Gordon, created their design for their mother. Jim, a regional manager for FTSE company FDM, said the brothers had chosen to interlock the letter L, O and U to create an unusual design. Charles, a Visitor Support Officer for Forestry England, said he thought she’d be pleased with their choice.

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Matthew’s story was the most touching, he arrived determined to chisel all four of his father Jonathan’s initials into the stone after he sadly passed away last year.

Peter said that everyone who comes through the door has a story. “There are lots of memories here,” he said. “I think it’s lovely.”

Each time a new stone is created another person becomes part of the maze. Peter said: “It’s all about making that really big connection between the project and the public, which helps transfer the ownership of the site from Forestry England to them.”

The stone made by Scarborough News reporter Louise PerrinThe stone made by Scarborough News reporter Louise Perrin
The stone made by Scarborough News reporter Louise Perrin

Chiselling the stone is relatively easy, Peter insists that the stones used are not too hard, creating a perfect surface to work on. When one of us slipped or made an error, he simply smiled and said: “We don’t make mistakes here, but we do sometimes have design alterations!”

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If you do find yourself with a particularly awkward patch, Peter is on hand to offer his services and straighten your carving out.

My own stone, dedicated to the man who changed my life, underwent several “design alterations” during its construction, but truthfully, I can’t tell you how pleased I am with the finished result.

The two and a half hours of the workshop flew by, everyone was in high spirits throughout the morning and I can honestly say that each person there was delighted with what they achieved.

Stone carving workshops run throughout 2020 in the Courtyard at Dalby. You can find out more on their website https://www.forestryengland.uk/dalby-forest.