The Village of Lower Crackpot and accompanying maze may not have its own postcode and it may not be found on any official maps, but I assure you it is an actual, real village. For it has a town hall, a police department, bars and hotels, and even a radio station.
Down the main street you will encounter other visitors who have travelled thousands of miles to see the buildings, and although it might be a little smaller than most villages you have explored, again, I assure you it is a real village.
A real village, built upon the imaginations of the thousands that visit every year, and one man, the late Brian Inder whose lifelong dream became a reality in this very spot when in 1985 he laid down the plans for a place so marvellous it almost defies explanation.
But, I shall try to explain, for many that enter the maze, rigid and resolute, find themselves quarried by the preposterous as they dart in between the hedges, losing themselves with every turn.
Today, both Willow and Steph have joined me on a trip to this wonderland – this being my fourth visit, Steph’s second, and Willow’s very first. As we pass through the entrance and gift shop we are confronted with the towering hedges of The Great Maze rising nearly 3 metres above us. There’s no fanfair or ceremony as we find ourselves very quickly and very much in the maze.
For those that know the way, The Village of Lower Crackpot is just a short walk through the outskirts of the maze. For those that don’t, it can be a very long one – but no one has ever come to Tasmazia to walk a straight line.
Willow looks out from her satchel intently as we pass through The Great Maze and into the village. It’s late afternoon now and the maze has cleared out. We are greeted by Laura, Brian’s wife and self declared Lady Crackpot. She’s wearing a bright tie-dye t-shirt under her Tasmazia jacket and warmly welcomes us to the village.
Brian would have been thrilled to know that you have visited, she says.
Surely not as thrilled as we are for being here. In fact, visiting Tasmazia almost feels like coming home, a place that’s comforting, nurturing, but still extraordinary with a quiet distaste for authority. I had been dreaming of bringing Willow here since our last visit in 2017.
So, a week ago I emailed Laura proposing the idea of a cat visiting the village to which she agreed. By rule pets are not allowed in the maze, so we are very grateful for this exception and assured her that our readers wouldn’t show up unannounced with theirs (dogs, lizards, goldfish etc).
As I place Willow’s satchel on the ground in the main street she is quick to jump out and have a sniff around. We thought it prudent to keep Willow on the leash during her visit.
Earlier in the afternoon, Steph and I entered The Great Maze whilst Willow was asleep in the van. Tasmazia is one of the world’s largest maze complex with The Great Maze being its showpiece – 6.2km of soaring Viburnum laurustinus tinus and a bears cottage in the centre. It goes without saying that all who enter will get lost, and to be honest that is kind of the point.
As we navigate our way through the maze I am humbled by its enormity. Endless corridors bound by verdant walls lead past whimsical signs and monuments. One moment we are climbing over a wooden platform junction, then the next we are on our hands and knees through a haunted house in cubby town.
Around many corners you will find a quiet seat to sit and contemplate life and the maze – the place where it’s okay to feel a little lost.
One corridor leads to The house that isn’t there and as we step up onto the verandah and through the front door we realise it’s just a facade – we’re back in the maze again. Another corridor leads us through a bright red gate signed Mr + Mrs B Hadd, and had we were as we turned the corner and faced a dead end with a sign saying we had been led up the garden path.
But I won’t give away any more of the mazes secrets for there are greater lessons to be learnt – it’s okay to not know where you’re going, and that with each dead end I walked down I found that to be fallible is to be human – lessons learnt as we were warmly held by the embrace of the giant hedges that surrounded us.
Steph had taken off.
I’ll meet you in the centre! I yelled out as I dashed the opposite way.
Back in the village, Willow is acquainting herself with some of the buildings as we recount our afternoon to Laura.
I got totally lost in the confusion maze, Steph says.
Well that’s our mission accomplished, Laura replies. A mission that started over 30 years ago when the first trees were planted.
Back in the 1980s when the dairy industry wasn’t going in the farmers favour Brian saw an opportunity to turn a childhood dream into a reality. He capitalised on a lifetime of skills he had gained in his many professions but none more than his time as nurseryman working for Yates. Yes, all those hedges were propagated by none other than Brian and Laura themselves.
Brian had done it all, working in a paint factory, rubber factory, fruit juice factory. Labouring, gardening, bread delivery driving, and welding. In a system stacked against him he took himself from penniless to the future he dreamed of.
So when he met Laura – and her keen business mind – a formidable partnership was formed. But, it wasn’t just themselves they were fighting for. Brian saw the industries around him in decline and had the vision to see tourism as the way forward. Brian formed a team that established Sheffield as the town of murals and helped save it from becoming a ghost town. Brian and Laura’s contribution to the area is so great that they have been celebrated in their own mural in Sheffield.
So, Tasmazia grew and the Village of Lower Crackpot built, and in a world sometimes so serious Lower Crackpot became the last frontier of nonsense, Brian and Laura purveyors of the absurd, and Brian declared the Laird of Lower Crockpot, with those that visit known as the gentlefolk. And here we stand today. with Willow, in this village that is real, because it was built upon a life of sweat, hard work, and most of all, a dream.
Willow guides us into the Yellow Brick Road maze where she finds a nice spot to sit down. The village is also surrounded by three other mazes, the Hampton Court Maze, the Confusion Maze, and the Hexagonal Maze, all of which will taunt and tease those who choose to challenge them.
Laura tells us that Willow isn’t the first cat known to the maze. Mazey [Maisey?] was a black and white moggy that knew the maze like the back of her paw.
She was a beautiful cat, and everyone loved to pat her, Laura tells us.
The maze, however, was no obstacle for this cat. When Brian set off for one part of the maze, the next minute she’d be there waiting. It seemed, Mazey always knew where he’d be and how to find him.
We sat Willow down next to the mural of Mazey for a picture with her fellow maze cat.
Since passing away in 2019, Brian’s legacy lives on in the maze and village, where every building stands as a testament to his fighting spirit and the joy he has given to all that visit.
Before it’s time to go, Willow spends some time at the Argentinian and Canadian embassies – the village has embassies for over 40 countries, don’t you know?
Now, I know I said I would try to explain exactly how marvellous Tasmazia is, but as we walk out the gate towards our van, waving to Laura, I resolve that some things just can’t be put into words.
Maybe you’ll have to visit yourself sometime?
* * *
As a born and bred Tasmanian, it is with great pride that I can celebrate and share this place with you. Anyone who has ever told me they are planning to visit Tassie will have heard me say that no trip is complete without a day spent at Tasmazia. It is – for lack of a better expression – pure joy.
We send our thanks to Laura, whose warmth and kindness has allowed this story to be possible. It was an honour to be able to visit such a special place with Willow. Thank you, Laura.
Days after our visit one question was still lingering in my mind – did Brian and Laura realise that all the buildings are perfectly cat sized?