In a sleepy corner of the Fens, on the outskirts of the small village of Wimblington, is a destination for a whole day of family fun: Skylark Maize Maze & Funyard. Living just under half an hour away in Ely, it was on our list of activities for a family day out and we got our chance to go this August, thanks to a VIP ticket from the Skylark events team.
The funyard is open all year round with events to coincide with Easter, Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night and Christmas. During the summer there is a very special addition — the maize maze. The 12-acre maze is themed and every year is different. In previous years the maize has featured the BFG and Star Wars, both of which we’d have loved, and this year is no different as the theme is dinosaurs!
When you’re through the entrance, you’re greeted by a moving, roaring t-rex which fascinated all the children — not just ours.
At the entrance to the maize maze you are given a fossil chart and a map of the route, so there’s little chance of you getting lost! Half way round there’s a viewing bridge to help with your bearings and also offers some nice panoramic views.
Our boys really enjoyed searching for the nine different dinosaurs around the maze. It helped with motivation on a very hot day! At each dinosaur point there’s a fossil stamp with a letter for you to add to your chart.
There are nine stamps & letters to find and we spent around 30 minutes navigating our way around to the end where the boys became archaeologists, digging for the 10th and final clue — then we re-arranged the letters to solve the mystery word.
From the sky, the maze must be an awesome sight, and I wonder whether it was noticed by the guys parachuting all afternoon out of a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter* from the oddly-named (given where it is) North London Skydiving Centre. It was a cool sight to see them landing a mile or so away from us, across the flat fenland landscape.
*geeky detail from Rob 😉
what else is at skylark
For a relatively small site, they pack in the activities.
Our family highlight was the Pesky Pigeon Tractor Ride. Each tractor ride lasts about 10 minutes (had too much fun to time it) which means you don’t have long to wait until the next one if you’re in the queue. Everyone, no matter your age, gets a fully-loaded super soaker and we’re encouraged to seek out every pigeon target and soak it! 🙂
The boys loved the huge Jumping Pillow which is essentially a trampoline with more boing and a softer landing. It’s in the middle of a ‘beach’ with deckchairs around the edge — with the warmth and blue skies above it didn’t feel like a typical English summer day out 🙂
Zip Wires are always a winner with us, and both boys were pulling on my arm to ask when they could go on. It wasn’t clear whether grown-ups are welcome on it too, but if it is acceptable for big kids, Rob & I will be on it next time!
The Go-Karting Track was great, although the karts seemed to be aimed at people with longer legs than our young boys, who struggled in some places. With the help of their ever-willing daddy giving them a push when needed, the boys enjoyed the go-karts immensely.
New this year is King Coop’s Castle with an enclosed castle staircase up to three huge slides. Each one is different offering a slow, medium and super fast slide to the bottom. More Ollie’s thing than Ben’s, but both had several goes.
The Jungle Bouncy Castle is aimed at younger children and Ben enjoyed engaging with others on there. For the safety-conscious parents, it was very well tethered to the ground — we always make a point of checking that first!
A Happy Hands trail provided some shelter under the trees. Wind your way around the woodland path collecting a smudge of colour on each finger of one hand. At the end is a chart — find the hand that matches your colour sequence and read your task, such as, sing your favourite nursery rhyme.
The Pig Racing wasn’t really our cup of tea, but it did seem to be popular with many people. You had the option to choose your favourite pig and buy a badge in their colour to show your support. You could get a great view from the top of the hay bale pyramid.
Some activities are on at specific times, and we missed Den Building and the Scarecrow Smash.
Refreshments & facilities
We took a picnic lunch with us, as did most people there that day. If you prefer to buy your lunch there, Skylark has a BBQ Grill on site serving a variety of hot & cold food, drinks and, to the boys’ delight, ice creams & lollies! The funyard adjoins a Garden Centre and Café which is where the toilets are located.
Being in the middle of the UK’s unusually long heat wave, shade was important. As it wasn’t too busy on the day we went, there was enough covered seating for our picnic lunch.
However, the funyard is a large space which is mostly uncovered. When I was subsequently asked for feedback, I mentioned the lack of shaded spaces around the site. Fortunately, the forward-thinking team are already planning to add more covered areas well ahead of the next summer season.
I also suggested having a fresh water tap to refill our bottles to avoid buying single use plastic bottles. Apparently, the staff are happy to replenish water bottles, but that wasn’t clear to us and we ended up buying some. They’re looking at ways to make that more transparent — in turn helping reduce plastic waste 🙂
The whole site is wheelchair and pushchair accessible and there is plentiful parking at the funyard entrance and at the adjoining garden centre.
Ben: I liked the go-karts and going on the tractor ride and the slides — the purple slide.
Ollie: At the end of the tractor ride I got soaked by King Pigeon — that was fun. I also liked finding the painted rocks and hiding them again in the maze.
Rob: My highlight was going on the pigeon tractor ride; it was awesome that you all got a water pistol and in the hot weather a splash was much appreciated 🙂
Me: My fondest memories are of the tractor ride, maize maze and happy hands trail as they were the activities we could do all together.
As we had a go at the majority of activities on offer, we probably wouldn’t go again during the same season. However, I am going to keep an eye on the special events throughout the year. I like the sound of the Hallowe’en event, and who wouldn’t want the chance to feed a lamb during lambing season? 🙂
For families who do return often, there is an option to purchase a season ticket which would end up saving you money after the second visit.
The maize maze itself has a short life, so if this is a feature you want to try out, you’ll need to visit between July and September. The exact dates are published on the Skylark website.
Bye for now!
Disclosure: Our visit was complimentary and we bought our own refreshments. As ever, all opinions are my own.