IN a circular clearing in the trees, deep in Dalby forest, a project of grandiose scale is slowly taking shape.

A maze, six-foot-seven-inches high and covering 80 square metres, is being constructed out of nothing but gold-grey Yorkshire stone. At its outermost edge it will abut the line of tall pines at the side of the clearing. Over 4,000 tonnes of local stone will be required to complete it.

It will take another three years to build, but when finished will be the largest construction of its type in the world.

The project is tricky to define. On one level it is a monument to the art of drystone walling. Indeed, its is a work of art in itself. Its creator and architect Mark Ellis says the maze will be "a showcase of the wallers' craft" - it will include esoteric features such as stone step stiles, squeezer stiles, smout holes, phantom gates and moon gates.

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A 'showcase of the waller's craft': the Dalby maze

Mark is a drystone waller, originally from Norton, who now lives in Farndale. After a career in advertising and design in London, he returned north and learned drystone walling from local craftsmen. The wall maze idea was in his head for 12 years before Dalby arose as the perfect place to build it.

Petra Young, funding and development manager at the Forestry Commission, says: "The maze will show off techniques and features unique to North Yorkshire."

Drystone walling is an ancient art. It was practised in Neolithic times, and evidence exists in Yorkshire of examples dating back to 600BC.

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The central circle of the maze

This Neolithic quality gives the site a slightly mystical feel. Attention is being paid to every detail - to the extent that the maze will align with a gap in the trees where the sun will appear at sunrise on the summer solstice.

The site feels deep in the forest. The area surrounding it is biodiverse. Driving in to the maze on a cloudless April morning, two roe deer spring out of the foliage across the road. Badgers roam the woods at night, and the population of nightjars in the local forest has had a spike in the last few years.

But as well as a monumental piece of craft and a tribute to Yorkshire heritage, the maze will be … a maze. A proper twisting, turning maze, a place for visitors to Dalby to discover, and then get lost in. Being outside, it will change with the seasons and throughout a day. People will want to experience it at different times, says Laleh Hobbs of the Forestry Commission. "Some will like to go there early in the morning when it's quiet. Others will like to go later on when there are more children and families around."

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Concept illustration showing what the completed maze will be like

The maze will also draw people deeper into the forest. "The majority of visitors tend to stick around the Low Dalby area," Petra says. "It is important to pull people through to Adderstone Fields because of the space round here to absorb more people than we could cater for in Low Dalby."

The Forestry Commission and their partners on the project are brainstorming other uses. The central circle of the maze – the only section that has been built so far – could be a perfect place to stage a play, with the audience sat against the wall around the circle's edge.

Funding is tricky because it is difficult to pigeonhole the project, Petra says. "It's too arty to be recreation, but it's not a pure work of art so it doesn't fit with the Arts Council."

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Stone carving: one way to raise funds

This has led to them getting creative with their fundraising. The Friends of Dalby Forest, partners in the project, are organising stone carving workshops. Members of the public can come along and carve their initials into a stone, which will then be built into the maze. These stone carving sessions are two-and-a-half to three hours long, and run by local artist Jennifer Tetlow. People can also support the maze by buying an initialled or non-initialled stone, or simply by donating.

The Dalby maze project has been evolving and gestating for many years, and it will be several years more yet until it is finished. For those who live in the area and further afield, now appears to be the perfect time to get involved. In the workshops, some people carve their own initials on the stone, others are carving the initials of loved ones.

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The maze under construction

This is a mammoth build, but indelibly marking a stone, which will then be placed somewhere in the maze's corridors to be discovered perhaps decades from now, feels like a small and personal way of helping it grow.

For more information on Buying a Stone or signing up to a stone-carving workshop, go to

You can also donate to the project at