Hazy Hedge Maze Memories

On June 19, 2012 · 10 Comments

I was poking around that place where Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands share a common border, better known as the BEDENL tripoint, using Google Maps satellite view the other day. I noticed an interesting topiary feature.

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It’s a hedge maze! I’ve seen them called garden mazes, labyrinths and various other terms, too. They all mean the same thing: a place where someone with sufficient foresight and a keen sense of humor planted shrubs in a pattern purposely designed to impede one’s progress for fun and amusement.

It pleases me that BEDENL has become something of a tourist attraction. Most multi-points don’t garner nearly that level of attention. There are some exceptions of course, however the preponderance are more likely to be marked with a simple stone pole or obelisk. It’s an attraction known as the Drielandenpunt at BEDENL. Pardon the clumsy auto-translation. Their website is in Dutch and this was the best that Google Translate could manage for English:

The Three Country Point is famous for the confluence of boundaries and the highest point of the Netherlands. Until 1919, the Drielandenpunt a Four Point Country with “neutral” Moresnet fourth country. In the beginning of the last century there was even an airport on the Four Country Point. There are now playing a lot of our games and outdoor activities such as off Drielandenpunt Sterrenslag and schietcompetitities consisting of clay pigeon shooting, archery, crossbow and air rifle shooting.

I’ve discussed Neutral Moresnet before. Also, I feel I should make a minor correction to their site. The Netherlands highpoint is no longer anywhere nearby. It’s now found on the Caribbean island of Saba. Nonetheless, there’s a tripoint here and they have a hedge maze so it meets all requirements for full 12MC approval.

The hedge maze stirred an old, distant memory from the back of my mind that comes to the surface every once in awhile.

It must have come from my early elementary school days, maybe I was six or seven years old. I recall visiting a hedge maze with my family. It was probably somewhere nearby, either in Virginia or elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic United States. We never traveled very far when I was that young.

The solution to the maze formed the basis of my recurring memory. Visitors went directly to the center of the maze if they took the very first left turn upon entering. They’d wander aimlessly in every conceivable direction if they took the very first right turn instead. It was based on a premise that most people turn right by instinct. I don’t know if any science actually exists behind that claim. I can vouch that I fell for it and turned right, whereupon I wandered around for awhile until I finally hit the center by chance. I found that simple solution utterly clever, and it’s a lesson that’s stuck with me ever since.

The other part I remember was that there was an earthen terrace or hillside outside of the maze where one could see the entirety of the structure from an elevated position. It was great fun to watch people take that initial wrong turn. They quickly become ensnared and disoriented within the maze’s devilish twists and turns.

The more I examined the memory, the more I came to believe that it must have been formed at Colonial Williamsburg on the Virginia Peninsula. The old Governor’s Palace Maze is located there, found appropriately enough behind the Governor’s Palace at the northern end of the Palace Green.

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I needed to examine the layout to make sure. A Google satellite view doesn’t do it justice. Too many treetops obscure the image especially on the left side of the maze. Fortunately I found a drawing of the layout on Early American Gardens. The "turn left" simple solution didn’t work, to my utter amazement. Sure, one can turn left and keep turning left and only left to finally reach the center — a solution to any hedge maze (works for all right turns too) — but my memory was turn left and walk immediately to the center.

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There is another maze located in Luray, Virginia, the Garden Maze at Luray Caverns. It’s a full acre covered with eight foot tall hedges with over a half-mile of pathways. I don’t think that’s the one I remember either. It’s of more recent vintage I believe.

This is an old memory. I’m willing to admit that the memory may have faded to where it no longer represents an accurate depiction of reality. I’m pretty sure it was Colonial Williamsburg filtered through the eyes of a small child and faded over time. However, I’d sure like to know if a turn-left-easy-solution hedge maze exists somewhere in the mid-Atlantic and whether it sounds familiar to anyone in the 12MC audience.

Tangentially Related

I found an entertaining article as I conducted my research. Apparently people have started using their mobile phones and Google Earth to find an easy solution: "Where’s the fun in that? iPhone cheats crack Britain’s biggest hedge maze in minutes."

On June 19, 2012 · 10 Comments

10 Responses to “Hazy Hedge Maze Memories”

  1. Craig says:

    This is a slightly better translation:

    “The Tripoint is famous for the meeting of boundaries and as the highest point of the Netherlands. Until 1919, the Tripoint was a quadripoint with “Neutral Moresnet” as the fourth country. In the beginning of the last century, there was even an airport on the quadripoint. A lot of our games and outdoor activities are now played there, such as the Tripoint Sterrenslag (Challenge Games) and shooting competitions consisting of clay pigeon shooting, archery, crossbow and air rifle shooting.”

    Sterrenslag (“Battle of the Stars”) takes its name and theme from the Dutch version of the US program “Battle of the Network Stars”.

  2. Bill Harris says:

    I do believe you are remembering the hedge maze at Colonial Williamsburg. At the opposite end of the entrance to the maze is a mound from which you can observe people in the maze below. I guess this was a 17th-century version of Pac-Man. When our kids were younger, they used to enjoy running the maze. Unfortunately these days it is a bit worse for the wear and the kids found it quicker to run through the hedges rather than stay on the designated paths.

    BTW, the mound had a utilitarian purposed, also: it’s base served as an ice house.

  3. hipsterdoofus says:

    I know several places do more seasonal mazes with corn and such (wouldn’t it be more fun if it was a maze of maize?). Here is one at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Gretna, NE, where they change the design every year:

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  4. Alger says:

    Two lovely hedge mazes that I grew up with are/were:

    1) New Harmony, Indiana. The non-historic maze that I remember has been ripped out and replaced with what looks to be a much prettier and possibly more confusing labyrinth based on the original plan from the days when the town was a commune.


    But I liiiiiiked the old maze 🙁

    2) The Shaw Gardens/Missouri Botanical Gardens maze in St. Louis, Missouri, which is super simple, but includes an awesome observation tower! I took my own children there when they were old enough to enjoy getting lost and taunted them from the tower until they found their way out. That was a very good day.

  5. Jasper says:

    Been there, done that! The Drielandenpunt, that is. It is very fitting for the Netherlands to have its highest point on one of its farthest corners and on its border. Oddly, I’ve never heard it being called BENEDL. Just Drielandenpunt, though I don’t know what the Walloons and Germans call it. Wiki mentions Dreiländereck for German and Trois Frontières for French, both which sound very reasonable.

    It’s really a tourist thing for the Dutch, as they (we) only have one (and that’s one more than the US does, HA!). Belgium has three and Germany a whole bunch. Also, the nearby city of Vaals is a classic tourist trap with every tacky touristy thing they could imagine. There are mine-trips, carnival type attractions, some monuments and bad food all over the place. Think Myrtle Beach on a hilltop.

    • Thanks Jasper. BEDENL is a generic shorthand used by people who pursue tripoints. They take the first two digits of each nation in alphabetical order to create a six-character abbreviation. It’s a method they use to identify a specific place without having to write-out “the België/Belgique, Deutschland, Nederland tripoint” every time they want to reference it.

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