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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
World record for NI peace maze
The peace maze has 6,000 Yew trees
The peace maze has 6,000 Yew trees
A Northern Ireland peace maze has been officially recognised as the largest and longest in the world.

Forest Service staff in County Down have been celebrating the feat which has been confirmed by Guinness World Records.

Work on the peace maze in Castlewellan Forest Park began in 1998.

On Wednesday, local schoolchildren marked the world record by releasing 300 dove-shaped balloons from the centre of the maze.

The cost of the project was about 570,000, 75% of which was funded by the European Union Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

The remainder was funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Down District Council.

There were unprecedented levels of pupil participation, where over 4,000 school children submitted designs for the maze and 1,000 people attended community planting days
John Watson
District forest officer

District Forest Officer John Watson said the concept was to commemorate peace and reconciliation.

"Numerous hedge mazes have been built around the world and we are delighted to have received acknowledgement of the new world records for the Castlewellan peace maze here today," he said.

"These are great recognition of the role many people played in the development of the peace maze.

"There were unprecedented levels of pupil participation, where over 4,000 school children submitted designs for the maze and 1,000 people attended community planting days."

'Solve maze puzzle'

Forest Service Maze Manager Michael Lear said the maze - which has 6,000 Yew trees - covered almost three acres and had over two miles of pathway and the hedges.
Local schoolchildren released 300 dove-shaped balloons
Local schoolchildren released 300 dove-shaped balloons

"It is 21% larger and 29% longer than the previous record-holders," he said.

"The maze is designed in two halves, with a divide that must be crossed to solve the maze puzzle.

"The paths are slightly wider than normal and the hedges low enough to encourage inter-action and communication between users."

The Forest Service said visitor figures had exceeded expectations, with about 20,000 people in May alone.

The solution to the maze - which was conceived by Beverley Lear - is marked by a bell in the centre.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
BBC NI's Martin Cassidy:
"The maze is designed in two halves, with a divide that must be crossed to solve the maze puzzle."



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