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.
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."
I completed my annual business trip to Williamsburg, Virginia earlier this week. I’ve featured articles arising from these periodic visits in the past including A Colonial Capital, The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry and Revisiting the Swap. I felt like I’d mined that area rather extensively. I had no plans to report anything further.
Something made me smile as I returned home along along Interstate 95. It’s something I’ve passed many times before as I’ve traveled between Richmond and Fredericksburg: one crosses two oddly-marked rivers in quick succession: the Po and the Ni. Two-lettered rivers are unusual enough and even more so within such close proximity, but that’s not what’s always amused me. My mind always seems to combine the two as I drive along; first Po then Ni, forming Poni (like Pony). I know, I’m easily entertained. I can’t be the only one who’s ever noticed this before. Will anyone else confess?
Google Street View has good coverage of the Ni River sign along I-95.
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I finally resolved to check into this after observing the spectacle dozens of times over the years. I thought maybe I’d include something in one of those brief “totally unrelated” notations I sometimes place at the bottom of articles. What I discovered changed those plans completely. Just before I’d crossed the Po and Ni Rivers, I’d crossed that Matta River. I had no idea that the Matta was part of the story too.
Prepare yourselves. This is a true geo-oddity. Four rivers in Spotsylvania County are called the Mat, Ta, Po and Ni Rivers respectively. The Mat and Ta Rivers join to form the Matta River, the first one I crossed on I-95. The Po and the Ni Rivers join just across the border in Caroline County east of I-95 to form the Poni River. Shortly thereafter, the Matta and Poni Rivers join to form the Mattaponi River, which later joins with the Pamunkey River.
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5)
The Mattaponi Indians are a state-recognized tribe (currently seeking Federal recognition) as are the Pamunkey Indians. They are the only two tribes of Native Americans in Virginia that have their own reservations. The Mattaponi and Pamuney Rivers join to form the, um,… York River? It was pretty interesting up until that last one, I guess.
Someone long ago gazed upon the Mattaponi River and noticed that the branches matched the syllables, found it amusing and somehow got away with an unusual naming convention. I don’t think it was laziness. I’ll bet this early settler thought he was rather clever. He probably would enjoy reading 12MC if he were alive today. I tip my keyboard to this unknown colonial-era enthusiast and propagator of geo-oddities.
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More? You’d like more?
A famous event occurred in the space between the Po and the Ni. One can hardly throw a rock in Virginia without hitting something related to the Civil War. That’s particularly true in this corner that falls within the boundaries of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The Bloody Angle resides between those two rivers. Here in 1864, "soldiers struggled for 20 hours in the longest hand-to-hand fight of the war," resulting in Union casualties of about 9,000 men and Confederate casualties of about 8,000 men.
I don’t think I’ll look at that Poni the same way again.
It’s not every day that I get an opportunity for a do-over. I was in Williamsburg, Virginia during the early part of this week. It’s so tantalizingly close to The Swap that I featured a few weeks ago.
I travel to Williamsburg about once a year on business and I have mixed feelings about the town quite frankly. The history buff in me enjoys the old colonial aspects. Last year, however, I caught the H1N1 Swine Flu down there. I guess that played in the back of my mind as I drove along Interstate 64 following the spine of the peninsula. Remember all the panicked people standing in line for flu shots a year ago? I didn’t have to worry about that. I gained my immunity the old-fashioned way: waves of fever lasting most of a week. I passed the virus promptly to my dear wife and our family cat. I digress though. I must be feeling particularly tangential this evening so let me get back on topic.
Quickly summarizing the salient point for those who don’t wish to read the original article, York County and the independent city of Newport News (considered a county-equivalent for Census and other purposes) swapped an unusually large amount of land in 2007.
I told myself that I’d cross the territorial boundaries of the geo-oddity during my next Williamsburg trip. It’s a mere fifteen minutes away from The Swap.
View Newport News – York Co. Adjustments; twelvemilecircle.com in a larger map
I didn’t feel motivated after a full day of work so I considered every excuse conceivable: I was tired; traffic might be a hassle; it looked like it might rain. The ridiculousness of these rationalizations finally took hold and I was able to push through the excuses. I hit the road and visited both parcels personally.
This section along Richneck Road switched from York County to the City of Newport News. I wasn’t sure if I would reach the spot. Currently it’s closed to all but local traffic due to construction. One reason why Newport News wanted this parcel was so that it could expand Richneck Road to relieve traffic pressures on chronically congested roads nearby. I can attest that the effort is underway. Notice the dirt that’s been pushed away in the photograph. I considered myself fortunate to reach the spot without dodging construction equipment.
The parcel that switched from the City of Newport News to York County belongs to the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. Most of it sits behind a secured perimeter with the exception of a large parking lot directly outside of the entrance. I’m guessing this may be a staging area for base access. Several tractor-trailers idled there waiting for permission to enter.
I parked and took a quick photograph, taking care to not record anything of military significance and quickly went on my way. Yes, I realize it’s completely visible in Google Street View. However I didn’t want to make any guards nervous or get my license plate noted in some database somewhere. I can only hope that nobody comes knocking on my door after a secret government computer correlates all the unusual spots I’ve visited over the years. Who’s going to believe that it’s due to my unnatural fascination with geo-oddities?
I take these personal risks for the loyal readers of the Twelve Mile Circle! Actually I did it for myself but I hope you enjoyed it too.