Southwold Maize Maze could reopen by July, say owners
PUBLISHED: 15:17 26 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:06 26 May 2020
Southwold Maize Maze
The creator of a highly successful café and maize maze farm diversification admits it was “heart-breaking” to close the venture down due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Now Bella Hall – who branched out 15 years ago with a new venture on husband David’s family farm – is hoping to reopen on July 25, and is growing the maize maze in readiness for the re-launch.
Old Hall Farm Café – opened just a year ago – and Southwold Maize Maze are set in Suffolk’s tourism heartland on the main road into the seaside town, and visitor numbers have grown year-on-year.
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Like all hospitality businesses, the café was forced to close due to lockdown rules and staff have been furloughed.
But as farmers involved in a seasonal business, the Halls – who are a third generation arable farming family based at Metfield – have jumped in with both feet by seeding their maize crop.
The family bought their Reydon farm – where the attraction is set – in 1995, and made the decision to sell their dairy herd in 2016, as it became less economically viable. But they still grow maize and potatoes on the farm, while renting out some land to Blythburgh Free Range Pork, whose pork features on the café menu. The marshland is rented to a local beef farmer, whose beef is also used.
The Halls diversified into the maize maze in 2005 growing it on the site of what had previously been cattle pastureland. It has now been continuous maize for 15 years.
The café and walks officially opened on March 26, 2019, building on 15 successful years for the maize maze.
“With visitors growing year-on-year, we decided a more permanent café would be a wonderful way for visitors to enjoy the beautiful landscapes around us,” explains Bella.
“Within nearly a year of opening, it has become very popular with visitors enjoying the spectacular views, combined with our freshly cooked food using the best local ingredients.
“It was heart-breaking to close our doors on March 20, but we made the decision for the safety of staff and the local community. We are looking forwarding to re-opening in line with government advice when we feel it is right and safe to do so.”
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The business is continuing to work towards opening the maze on July 25, and making plans for visitors to enjoy it safely.
“It’s an exciting and fun form of outdoor exercise which can be enjoyed by the whole family. The maize has now been planted for the summer season, with 2m wide paths to help with social distancing. All tickets will available to purchase online, in order to restrict numbers on-site,” says Bella.
The walks have been created in association with Suffolk Wildlife Trust
“We have been working closely with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Natural England to provide habitats for winter wild birds, creating a series of water scrapes and two meadows dedicated to wild bird seed mix to provide food over the winter months,” she says.
The Halls are currently working with their head chef, posting recipes online and through social media to help those at home with children, and have been aiming to keep customers updated and engaged during lockdown.
With hopes that government restrictions will ease over summer, they are looking at options including takeaway orders, click and collect and opening the walks for limited numbers of people.
In time, they are looking to lift staff off furlough, while keeping employee and customer safety to the forefront of their thinking, with plans for personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, social distancing and outdoor seating.
Southwold Maize Maze features a unique intricate design each year, designed by Bella. The peak of the season is July to September, and the October half term.
The Halls say they are optimistic and planning ahead as usual for the summer opening of the 10-acre maze, which was precision drilled using greenstar satellite technology a few weeks ago – meaning it should be popping through the soil any day now. The pumpkin patch and pick-your-own sweetcorn – new for this year and ready in September – will be going in over the next few weeks, using a number of different varieties of seeds. The pumpkins were a new feature for 2019 and were so successful, they have branched out into a wider variety of pumpkin sizes and colours this year.
The maze paths will be 2m wide to help with social distancing and all tickets will have to be bought online as the numbers allowed on site will be restricted. The Halls are looking into the use of an online booking system for allocated time slots, allowing limited numbers to enter the maze at each time, from the same household if required.
The café and walks are currently closed.
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