`Hi, I'm in the maze. Can you help?'

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The Independent Online
WHEN MOBILE phone manufacturers suggested their equipment would be good for use in an emergency they were probably thinking of fires or car accidents. It is fairly certain that hapless tourists getting lost in mazes were not on their list of priorities.

But staff at Lord Bath's Longleat estate in Wiltshire have been inundated with almost 30 calls in the past fortnight from panic-stricken people stuck in its maze.

The Longleat maze has held the world record for the longest hedge maze since 1976. It has 1.75 miles of paths and 3.25 miles of hedge.

Tim Bentley, the attractions manager at the park, said growing numbers of visitors could no longer be bothered to find their way out of the labyrinth and were simply ringing staff.

"Their boredom threshold seems to be going down. I don't know what they think we can do as we don't know where they are either," he said. "Some of them get quite irate and demand that someone escort them out but really, if you are going to go into a maze, then you'll get lost - that's the point isn't it.

"We are telling them to take their time and keep walking and eventually they will come to a sign saying `lift if lost'," Mr Bentley said. "The sign will reveal a set of arrows showing the way out. We have decided that if there is a real emergency we will go in and try to find them but in the last few weeks we have spent quite a lot of time hunting for people only to find that they have found their own way out. Unless there is a real problem then they've got to do it on their own."