The Wye Valley Visitor is the creation of the brothers Lindsay and Edward Heyes.
Their business was established in 1977 when The Jubilee Maze was planted. They took over Old Court Nursery next door in 1984 to create a Visitor Centre with a community of businesses that could meet all the needs of visitors when they first arrive in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, regardless of age or ability.
The brothers had a new vision for tourism in the countryside: It should be inclusive, accessible, and educational, but above all visitors should be able to have fun in the countryside, not just look at it; Creating a Country Promenade would encourage people to visit the local church and so contribute to the income of a vital community asset. When other Visitor Centres were vanity projects for the public sector, the Wye Valley Visitor Centre was to be a hub for regeneration of commercial tourism, which is vital to the prosperity of the Wye Valley.
They sponsored a Manpower Services Commission Community Programme in 1986 to clear the site and provide common facilities such as toilets, parking and a picnic area. This created fifteen jobs for long-term unemployed people for fifteen months, a business park for tourism industry start-ups, and community parking. The project was underwritten by the brothers and they put in the pump-priming capital for development of the attractions, financed by income from the maze and a museum of mazes, and eventually the rent from tourism business premises.
Disaster threatened when, in 2001, the closure of countryside to prevent the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease in cattle wrecked the rural economy. This part of the countryside was subject to exclusion orders for longer than anywhere else in Britain. Deprived of customers, tenants left one by one, until the only business left trading was the aMazing Hedge Puzzle. The brothers faced a decision: go out of business - or fight through. They decided to invest. First, they rebuilt the butterfly farm, bringing the husbandry of the collection into the 21st century, and it is now the Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo.
A decade further on, the Wye Valley Visitor Centre had risen again as a thriving community of businesses providing employment for dozens of people. The Heyes brothers operate the aMazing Hedge Puzzle, Wye Valley Miniature Golf, Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo and Wye Valley Warfare. The cafe is independently run.
Income from private enterprise is the sole source of funds for the provision and maintenance of the common facilities, and the brothers maintain a nature reserve by putting the battleground for Wye Valley Warfare’s Laser Ops to dual use.