During our trips to the Olympic Games this year we were struck with the incredible atmosphere surrounding the whole of
London. On our last trip we decided to have a tour around the city and get a look at all the decorations, banners and flags that had been put up for the festival. While plotting where we should go we came upon the Mayor of London Discovery Trails, six routes around the city marked by a total of 82 statues of the mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, painted to represent different themes of London.
|Union Jack Wenlock Getting Attention|
The official blurb for the routes was as follows “Stroll Discovery Trails provided the opportunity to take a stroll along some of
London’s most scenic streets. We put together six unique walking routes across the historic city centre that took people on a journey of discovery to the greatest sights and sounds of London. The trails were brought to life by our official Games mascots Mandeville and Wenlock, who highlighted some great photo opportunities. Each Mascot was individually designed, animating the routes in a unique way that captured the spirit of London. A large number of people tried out all of the trails and sent us photos of their favourite London 2012 Games mascot.”
The mascots were rather an acquired taste – many people didn’t warm to the one-eyed representations. The back-story behind them perhaps explained their appearance, but I’m not sure this was explained very well. According to the associated (fictional) storyline, they were formed from the last girder of the Olympic Stadium. Their skins are made of highly polished steel allowing them to reflect the personalities and appearances of the people they meet. Their one eye is a camera and on their heads are yellow lights symbolizing those of a
Wenlock’s name was inspired by Much Wenlock in
, where the Wenlock Olympian Society held its first Olympian Games in 1850, regarded by some as an inspiration for the modern Olympic games. The five friendship rings on his wrists represents the Olympic rings, and three points on his head represent the three places on the podium. The pattern on his body symbolises the whole world coming to Shropshire, England London, and the shape of his helmet is supposed to represent the shape of the Olympic Stadium.
Mandeville is named after the
in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, which organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games for the first time in 1948, which is considered to be the precursor to the Paralympics. The three spikes on Mandeville's helmet represent the Paralympic Agitos. Stoke Mandeville Hospital
We started with the
Green Route, for no better reason than it was completely in , and would give our children the opportunity to explore without us worrying about traffic (it was the only traffic-free route). Due to the vagaries of our bus route we actually entered the Park in the south-east corner, which meant that we would come across the 11th and last mascot on the route first. Regents Park
So our first mascot was called Rainbow Mandeville and it said on its plaque “My adventures on a rainbow have taken me all around the
UK. I've met so many inspirational people and learnt so many things”. Its design was colourful and striking and immediately struck a chord with the children. It soon became obvious as we wandered around to the next one that there were many other people doing the same as us. We had to vary our pace to ensure that there wasn’t a traffic jam for people waiting to get their pictures taken with the statues.
, this was our first time exploring and we liked what we saw. The flower beds and planting schemes were in particularly fine fettle and we speculated whether there had been more money spent on them this year, given how many eyes would be on Regents Park London. Sadly the Park would not play a part in the Games themselves, rumours of baseball and softball being hosted here were squashed when those two sports were dropped from the programme for London 2012.
The popularity of the mascots was soon apparent when we reached the next one – the very patriotic looking Union Jack Wenlock. The girls had to queue to get their picture taken! After this mascot we had assumed that we would get on track and follow the rest of the trail as per the numbered sequence but had not realised that the bridge across the canal-like waterway that we were following was being extensively repaired and was therefore closed. This proved an annoyance as we had to re-jig the route considerably, passing along the side of the boating lake towards the next available mascot.
We took the opportunity to have our picnic alongside the lake and enjoyed watching the large number of people rowing and pedalling their way around the boating lake. It made for an exquisite summer scene, something of a rarity this year! All around the edge of the park the beautiful architecture of the buildings overlooking this green space added a good deal of additional class. Alongside the lake were large numbers of water birds, from herons to little sparrows, all seeming to be unaffected by the large numbers of people wandering about. Indeed many of the birds used the people as opportunities and there was much scrounging for food going on!
After some lunch we pushed on, eventually finding Safari Mandeville next and then Victorian Mandeville at the far end of the Park. In addition to the mascots the girls were quite fascinated by the antics of the squirrels – there certainly seemed to be plenty of them and most were very busy!
As we headed on to the next mascot the mood of the Park changed. Gone were the flower beds and wild birds to be replaced by sports, including incongruously for the summer lots of football. There were also cricket and baseball games going on and the Park was alive with a competitive yet friendly atmosphere. Is this what the Olympics are supposed to be inspiring? I do hope so – it was lovely seeing so many people enjoying the fresh air.
|Black Eyed Susans|
Our onward route was quite convoluted as we had to double back on ourselves after seeing Animal Wenlock and Regency Mandeville. As each mascot went by we began to appreciate the thought that had gone into all these mascots and their positioning around the trails. The Animal one represented the famous London Zoo that sits to the north of the Park, while Regency represented the history of the Park.
From the frenetic sporty part of the Park we curved around through a quiet part of the Park, beloved of swans and small birds only. There were far fewer people around too, belying its location in the centre of
London. The remaining mascots were found in quick succession; Birdy (which was probably my youngest daughter’s favourite), Rose Garden and Midsummer Night’s Dream (named after the play being staged in the Park throughout the summer). A short walk around the Inner Circlebrought us to Deckchair and Sherlock (named after the nearby Baker Street location of the famous sleuth).
|Sea of Yellow|
By now we were rather hot and bothered and took the opportunity to have an ice cream. This last part of the Park was possible the best of all. The centre of the
Inner Circle was awash with flowers, especially roses in what I later learned was a famous garden known as St Mary’s Garden. This part of the garden was also surrounded by some decorative iron fencing and entered via some exquisite gates that had been put here to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. The final jewel in the crown for us though was the sculpture of a gardener made completely out of live plants. This was a lovely sight to finish with!