Mark Ellis, who plans to build the drystone maze in Dalby Forest

Mark Ellis, who plans to build the drystone maze in Dalby Forest

A craftsman has plans to make people get lost in the woods.

Drystone waller Mark Ellis hopes to realise his vision of a giant maze in a North Yorkshire Forest, using 4,000 tonnes of stone.

The maze, in Dalby Forest near Pickering, will cover 80 sq metres, will have six-foot high walls and take two masons plus a couple of apprentices three years to build.

The drystone labyrinth, on Forestry Commission land, will cost £600,000, and the 47-year-old, from Farndale in the North York Moors, has launched a fundraising campaign to try to realise his dream.

He said: “The maze is a huge undertaking. It’s been buzzing around my head for 12 years and although I didn’t have Dalby in mind when I came up with the idea, as it turns out it’s a great place for a stone maze.

“Lurking unseen amongst the trees it adds yet another layer of mystery.  Lifting and shaping 4,000 tonnes of stones will be a heck of a slog, but a great attraction in itself for passing visitors. It will be a showcase for the ancient art of drystone walling.”

The maze, which the Forestry Commission said would be the world’s first made from drystone walls, would have its layout altered over time, to keep the puzzle fresh. 300 tonnes of stone have already been donated to the project.

Petra Young, from the Forestry Commission, added: “We are really keen to see this brilliant dream become a reality.

“The maze combines fun, craftsmanship and art and it will also help train apprentices who are the drystone wallers of the future. We like to think everything is bigger and better in Yorkshire. And what better way to prove it that with a wonderful maze and another fantastic feature for Dalby.”

Mr Ellis with a model of the planned maze

Mr Ellis with a model of the planned maze

The structure is planned for the heart of the forest, near Dixon’s Hollow, in the southern part of the North York Moors national park. According to experts, drystone walling was perfected during the Neolithic period and examples dating back to 600BC have been identified in Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales.

Mr Ellis returned to his North Yorkshire roots from London 19 years ago, leaving behind a career in advertising and design to seek a better quality of life. He began by milking goats in Farndale and then got into walling, learning from local craftsmen.

Forest chiefs are approaching funding bodies to raise the cash and interested parties can contact Petra Young on 01751 472771, or email her. A scale model of the planned maze can be seen at the Dalby Forest Visitor Centre.

Dalby Forest covers 3,440 ha (8,600 acres) on the southern slopes of the North York Moors and includes numerous walking routes and mountain bike trails, rated from green to black.

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