With an extremely busy June and bad luck with weather in the only windows of opportunity that we had we ended up with a blank month of major walks (plenty of short evening ones). On the first weekend of July we were therefore keen to redress the balance and so headed over to Salisbury where we had spotted another Wild in Art Trail called 'The Baron's Charter'. This commemorates the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. The connection with Salisbury? One of the original documents signed by King John is still kept safely within Salisbury Cathedral. Incidentally Lincoln is also holding a Baron's Charter trail this year as it is also a city that looks after one of the original 4 manuscripts.
The Trail is being run by the Trussell Trust, a charity behind the foodbanks that operate up and down the country. It seems strangely ironic that a charity with that cause is commemorating Magna Carta and all that stands for. There are 25 Barons altogether and the trail runs until September 6th this year. The Barons will then be sold off for the charity at auction during the autumn.
We started our hunt for the Barons near to Salisbury station. This meant that we would not be starting at number 1 as that is stationed outside Salisbury Cathedral. Our route would therefore be slightly haphazard as we tried to cover the distance in the shortest possible time. The first on our list was rather appropriately Salisbury Baron, a magnificent specimen showing a depiction of Salisbury and its place in the landscape. It was a good one to start with as it set the mood for the rest of the trail - we all loved the detail and looked forward to finding the next one.
We wandered down through the back streets of Salisbury to Queen Elizabeth Gardens, a rather lovely and well appointed park on the south edge of the city. The park was opened in the 1960s to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and combines formal planting with a play area, barbecue facilities and a delightful stream running through the middle. We were here though to find two more Barons. The first was a lovely and thoughtful silhouette of a tree across a Baron with sunset colours designed to promote the work of the Trussell Trust. The other was Hello Kitty, which seemed rather at odds with the rest of the Trail. Even the explanation about Hello Kitty representing small acts of kindness seemed a bit thin.
Having ticked these two off our list we headed over to the Cathedral area where there were quite a few to find. Salisbury Cathedral is awe-inspiring - partly courtesy of its spire which is the tallest in the United Kingdom. The precinct around the cathedral is pretty impressive too - the largest of any in England and it also boasts the oldest working clock in the world (from 1336). Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising therefore that there were five Barons in the immediate area. The first we came to was Discworld Baron in memory of Sir Terry Pratchett who wrote the popular series of novels about Discworld. Sir Terry lived locally in Salisbury until his unfortunate death in early 2015. The Baron was already in production when he dies and the family gave permission for it to be included on the trail as a memorial.
The next Baron was the only one that we couldn't see the face of - Astro Baron. This was just a frivolous one with the Baron dressed in the most crazy uniform the artist could think of. The detail was fascinating and at least one of my daughters voted this one as her favourite of all of them. Other Barons in the precinct were Quintessentially British showing icons of what makes these isles unique; MC800 Baron showing the contrast between old calligraphy and contemporary print and Conrandin, a Baron that depicted some of the scenes that would have been seen in Medieaval Britain. They were all fascinating and warranted some attention as we looked at them in detail. The cloud that had bedevilled us so far showed signs of relenting and so we wandered into the city to look for some lunch with the hope that we would have a sunnier afternoon.
|King of Hearts|
As we left the precinct we passed through a magnificent old gate - I am guessing that this would have once been part of the city walls although it is now hemmed in by buildings on both sides. Salisbury has been more successful in blending old and new buildings than some other cathedral cities. This is evident in Old George Mall which manages to be modern and yet blend in quite well. The King of Hearts and Stonehenge Winter Solstice Druid were based here - the first showed a Baron dressed up like the playing card and the second a druid that you might see at nearby Stonehenge. One was colourful and eye-catching and the other was wonderfully lifelike. Both were eagerly ticked off the list by my girls.
|Stonehenge Winter Solstice Druid|
Beyond the modern and rather tucked away shopping mall was the old Market Place and Guildhall. These are by any stretch of the imagination the heart of the city and it was good to see that even on a Sunday there were plenty of people about frequenting market stalls and giving the whole area a thriving feeling. The Barons here were particularly well done - Salisbury Market showed the colourful and plentiful produce you might expect to find here; Looking Forward, Looking Back showed the interior of Salisbury Cathedral and Aspiring Peregrines was a celebration of the falcons that roost in the cathedral itself. We particularly liked the ones with a local flavour.
By now the sky was clearing nicely and we stopped for a bit of lunch and rest of the feet. We had by now spotted about half of the available Barons. Our next part of the trail would take us away from the city and into another park in the northwest corner. The parks are the locations of Wiltshire Council, the police station and other civic buildings. We also passed through the churchyard of what is now the Faringdon Centre. The first was the Stained Glass Flower Baron, inspired by one of the windows in Salisbury Cathedral. The second was the rather comical 'Oh Deer' which combines ideas of the past meeting present. We particularly loved the detail of this one, which depicts the ancient tale of the founding of the cathedral with pictures of present incumbents, the peregrine falcons.
|Looking Forwards Looking Back|
We wandered around the back of the arts centre into the park beyond. There looks to be parts of the ramparts of former fortifications here although a lot of imagination is required as all that can be seen is earthworks. Three more Barons were in this area - the rather dull Magna Carta (sorry), the bright and breezy Tree from the Garden of Life and my personal favourite Busy Bee, which shows a delightful and colourful cherry tree and a monk enjoying himself relaxing underneath while bees continue to be busy all around him.
From this park it was quite a stride to the next place to the north east of the city and on the other side of the ring road. Luckily for us there was a bridge that we could go underneath but what we hadn't bargained for was the flooded pavement. This is obviously a regular occurrence judging by the appearance of a path next to it on a higher level. This necessitated a crouching stance underneath the bridge though - hardly very comfortable. Luckily on the other side was Waitrose and a cup of tea to follow the sighting of the Green Man Baron outside.
Feeling refreshed we then headed over to the furthest flung Baron; Baron Button. This flame haired and moustached Baron was ready to protect us all from fire and handily located at the fire station. This was probably other daughter's favourite :)
From the fire station it was a straightforward journey back to the beginning - we would follow the River Avon path back through the city. We passed by Runnymede Baron showing the scene that would have greeted the signing of the Magna Carta document. This was probably my favourite. We also passed by East Meets West, a beautifully illustrated piece that showed the Baron apparently looking like a piece of Ming pottery and later Loveheart Baron - decorated with the sweets of the same name. I think the last one, although undoubtedly a lot of fun, was a bit lost on me...
|East Meets West|
Finally when we got back to the beginning of the trail we passed by Traditional Tribal Baron and Conceptual Baron. Again both designs were fantastic but the symbolism was a bit lost on me. The tour was now complete and as we wandered back to start our journey home we talked a lot about the quality of the art we had seen today. There is no doubt about it - on the whole the art was of an extremely high standard and we enjoyed the opportunity to look around Salisbury very much. Our favourite designs were definitely the ones with a local theme that was easily identifiable. Some were a bit lost on us and a couple seemed very out pf place. Definitely worth a go before all the Barons disappear though!