Thursday, 5 December 2013

Stick Your Neck Out

Registration Point

There were no plans for another mascot trail this year but an unlikely opportunity cropped up when we found a new trail in the local town of Horsham.  This was a more homespun affair than the Gromits and the Rhinos beforehand but I thought it would be a good excuse for a town walk with the girls, especially as there were prizes on offer for this one!

Lloyds Bank
The task was to find the 51 giraffes that had been placed around the town by the Rotary Club and we were given a sheet and map where we could find them.  Any chance of this being a long-winded affair were soon scotched when I discovered that the first half dozen were all grouped together by the registration point, with another half a dozen dotted around the Swan Walk shopping centre where we started.  I was rather glad to leave the confines of the shopping centre though and the next phase of our walk took us around the rather older Carfax.  The unusually named square is the original heart of the town where the four main roads met.  It is now a rather vibrant square and we were lucky enough to visit on market day.  Our noses were filled with the fantastic aromas of curries, pasties and other baked goods being sold on the market.

Carfax Shops
We found that most of the giraffes dotted around the Carfax were in shop windows, although in many cases we had to go inside to collect the names of them.  The girls had a great time doing this as they got a lot of attention as they busily collected the names and wrote them on their entry forms.  Perhaps their favourite ones were the ones inside the British Legion shop (where they collected their poppies too – nice move!) and one inside a haberdashery shop which had been done up in lots of offcuts of material.

At the top end of the Carfax is the rather strange St Mark’s Church tower, almost completely overshadowed by the insurance buildings that surround it.  Apparently the church never prospered and despite a rebuild it finally succumbed to progress when the Royal Sun Alliance built their headquarters here.  Before moving on from the Carfax we also enjoyed looking at the bandstand, which was erected here in 1892 and has been refurbished in recent years.

St Mark's
The last giraffe on our tour of the Carfax was stationed in the Natwest Bank and literally made of money!  My children were rather nonplussed by the sight of £1 notes – how long has it been since we had those?  Our onward journey took us into the rather secretive looking Piries Place, yet another area of shops accessed via a small passageway.  I guess old Horsham would have had a lot of these, but the modern town seem to have lost of these features in the path to modernisation.  In fact the whole town is a rather strange mixture of old and new, not always sitting comfortably alongside each other either.  In this particular square of modern shops though was a rather whimsical piece of public art that seemed to be very popular with the children as it depicts a well known Horsham figure who used to ride around by donkey and trap.

Dressed for Dinner
Within the square was also my favourite giraffe of the whole day, the very pink and dolled up Zsa Zsa Giraffe.  She made quite the addition to the clothing boutique that she was stationed in!  Once we had collected all the names from Piries place we then headed out past a very interesting looking store called Pretty Things.  Sadly, although it looked lovely it was completely devoid of customers and I wonder how long it might survive for?  We turned to head down East Street and by now the girls were in their stride anxious to run ahead and find the next one.  For my younger daughter the short distances between each giraffe and the large number of them were perfect for her little legs.

Piries Place
We passed by the historic Town Hall, now a branch of the up and coming chain Bills and originally built in 1721 but much altered since then.  It last served as a public building in the 1970s when the Council was reorganised.  It serves as a rather atmospheric and seemingly popular place to eat nowadays and it is good to see the old place with such a bright future.

Pretty Things
Our route then took us down The Causeway and a pleasingly old and rather affluent looking part of town.  The bright blue skies were giving way to some rather threatening clouds and we rather hurried through the next part so that we could take refuge in the library.  The shower thankfully passed in the time we were in the library and we came out to find that it actually hadn’t amounted to very much – definitely a case of the clouds have a bark worse than their bite!

Town Hall
In the Forum area we stopped to inspect the sundial that was erected here in 2002.  It is a clever piece of artwork for it incorporates many scenes from Horsham’s history including the Wey and Arun Canal, the poet Shelley, brickmaking and Southdown sheep.  It looked particularly good in the newly emerged sunshine and attracted a lot of attention from passers by.  We dived into the local branch of Beales to find the next three giraffes and discovered that these were deliberately hidden away just to make sure that we visited every corner of the store!

Threatening Clouds at The Forum
Once we had negotiated Beales we passed by the large fountain on the junction of West Street and the former Worthing Road and known as the Shelley Fountain (although officially known as Rising Universe).  This rather controversial piece of public art has aroused strong feelings about its appearance (it has been dubbed the ugliest fountain in the world!) and has been beset by problems with its inner workings.  I rather like it personally – it is a rather bold piece and reminds me of a globe with a tear down the middle.


We picked up the last two giraffes in the shopping street, the rather delightful Siyabonga in the sweet shop (dressed up like a liquorice allsort) and Speccy in Specsavers, a rather short sighted specimen!  All that was left for us after picking these up were the last two up in the Capitol Theatre some distance away.  I was rather surprised that the girls were still up for finding these as they were a fair walk but they were adamant that they wanted to complete all 51.  The two in the theatre were worth finding though – one was done up like Pudey from Children in Need fame and the other Peter Pan.  They were worthy specimens to finish with.  This was a fun trail that worked on two levels – for the girls it was all about the giraffes while for me it was all about the history of a town that I visit often for work but rarely look around.

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