At last we had a local Wild in Art Trail! As you know we have become big fans of these trails and until now we have had to journey away from our home county in order to find one. To be fair it was probably only a matter of time until one came to Brighton and when it came it was the theme of Snowdogs. I'm not entirely sure why this was the theme chosen but it may have had something to do with local author Raymond Briggs and his famous creation 'The Snowman', which is still shown every year on television at Christmas.
Our route then ran along the seafront towards Brighton City Centre. It was quite obvious that we weren't going to manage to see all of the Snowdogs on foot on this first day. The shortest route between them was apparently more than 10 miles and we only had a limited time available. I therefore devised a route that would find the most that we could with a view to coming back the following week to find the remaining ones in the car. Thus we skipped number 2 and headed for number 3, the rather lovely fuzzy Snowbrador by Medina Terrace. It was at this point that we realised that it wasn't going to be easy to get pictures with each one of the dogs for there seemed to be dozens of other people on the hunt too. Perhaps it was because we walked the trail while they were still pretty new and the weather was still very warm.
Number 5 was next (there were 45 in total) and this was in Palmeira Square. We discovered that we would have to quicken our pace between the dogs for we seemed to be caught in with a bunch of people that wanted to linger at every dog and clearly that was going to slow us up considerably. This one was called Dave the Dog and had a motoring theme - this was probably about the sponsor rather than its location for I expected it to have a floral theme to fit in with the floral clock, which is housed in the middle of the square. After our quick detour inland it was back to the seafront to see Pebbles back on the promenade. This was a much more appropriate theme for it fitted in with the nature of the beach, which is famously made of shingle (much to my disappointment as a child).
As we continued towards central Brighton we passed the bandstand, still looking resplendent after its makeover a few years back (in fact I couldn't be sure whether it might have had another one since then?). Flower was stationed outside (number 7) and number 8 was by the i360 a little further on. Long time readers of my blog may remember me mentioning this installation being planned when I came last time a few years ago. Well, now it is completed and despite the teething troubles since its summer opening, it is becoming established as a popular tourist attraction. The original intention was that it would help pay for a replacement West Pier, but looking at the state of the old thing I cannot imagine it ever being rebuilt now. My daughter and I looked longingly at having a go on the i360 but the queues were enormous so we continued on our way. Bobby, the police dog (number 8) was keeping guard on the masses.
A little way past the i360 and we headed inland through the modern shopping centre of Churchill Square where we found one inside and one outside. Getting pictures of both was quite difficult although the one outside was due to a very chatty cleaner who seemed to be acting as a personal groom to the little fella. She explained that she needed to keep him spruced up as he was very popular. He was called Blot the Dog. The one inside recalled the Mod era of Brighton, which a nod to the film Quadrophenia, which was filmed here and recorded the struggles between the mods and rockers who fought on the beaches during the 1960s.
We had a bit of a walk to the next ones which were situated at Brighton Station. Smart Vibes was outside and was the first we had seen for a while that did not have a crowd with it. We grabbed a piccie and headed inside to find Newshound. This one was plastered with some of the more comedy headlines that have been featured in local newspaper The Argus over the past few years. We amused ourselves for a few minutes reading them before moving on.
We headed next down to The Level to see Gizmo (number 41). This was quite lonely in the middle of the park and we had all the time in the world to spend with him. What struck me about The Level though is how much more of an attraction it now is. A café and play area have been installed in recent years and the whole place was alive with visitors. The last time I came to this part of Brighton I remember it being quite drab and a bit unloved.
St Peter's Church was next and Dudley (no.40) outside. This unfortunate dog was the first to hit the headlines when it was graffitied within days of its installation. It had been repaired when we visited but the underlying damage could still be seen. The offender was named and shamed in the Argus and he claimed that he thought that he was contributing to the artwork. Honestly!
We wound our way back through the vibrant North Laines area. This was always my favourite part of the city in which to shop as it has all manner of eclectic shops selling stuff you wouldn't find anywhere else. If anything these shops have become ever more cosmopolitan although sadly I note that the prices have skyrocketed too. We were on a mission this time though - no time for browsing inside or even window shopping. We found Frank (no.32) and had to wait our turn once again before pushing on to Snowman's Nightmare (21) at the other end of the shopping area.
A cluster of Snowdogs were to be found around the Dome and the Royal Pavilion and these were hunted down next. I love the Pavilion - it is perhaps the most preposterous building in the UK and was built as a royal palace for George IV when he was Prince Regent. He loved Brighton and made this his home during his short reign in the 1820s. The Pavilion is styled as an Indian Palace and looks rather ridiculous even by today's standards, let alone what it must have looked like when first built. Its life as a royal palace didn't last too long - Queen Victoria couldn't wait to get rid of it and the building is now owned by the city council.
Next stop was the Lanes. This famous part of Brighton boasts extremely narrow streets and some high end shops. We checked off the dogs that we lurking in the Lanes although this took quite a long time as again we dealt with a plethora of young children draping themselves all over the bases longing for their pictures to be taken. I cannot really think of another trail that has captured the imagination of so many people. My daughter and I had already concluded though that we preferred the zebras from a few weeks earlier.
We worked our way back to the seafront and from here it was to be a straight run to Brighton Marina. What we hadn't bargained for was a huge motorcycle rally and the road along the seafront was absolutely chock-a-block with gleaming machines, mostly very expensive looking. There were lots of hairy looking men and women in tight leather gear admiring each other's machines and generally having a great time. I'm not overly keen on motorbikes but even I could see the allure of these machines.
We popped along the pier for some respite from motorbikes and found Grrrace and Palace Pup (28 and 29). The latter wasn't so easy to find and we ended up going all the way to the end of the pier before discovering her about a third of the way back. She was rather ignored by other visitors; perhaps they all thought that she was part of the furniture? Under the Sea (number 30) was getting a lot more attention but then it was stationed at the entrance to the Sea Life Centre and was therefore seen by every visiting child who went in.
For the remaining part of our walk we passed more than a mile of motorbikes lined up. I have never in my life seen so many lined up in one spot. They weren't just English either - there were plenty from continental Europe and especially the Netherlands. The rally was starting to wrap up though - some people were already roaring away and the din was unimaginable. We were pleased for a short detour into St George's Church in Kemp Town, where we escaped for a few minutes to check out Smiley (no.34). From here it was on to Brighton Marina to pick up the remaining cluster.
Brighton Marina was constructed when I was a boy. It is quite an astonishing piece of engineering and one that I am not sure would be built today. It is one of the largest man-made marinas in Europe and rather brutally occupies a space at the bottom of the cliffs at Black Rock. As a marina I am not sure it was overly successful since much of the harbour space has been filled in and is occupied by shops and restaurants. There were three Snowdogs among the shops and a unique one to finish off with; one made out of sand by the artist 'Anonymous'. It was very sensibly fenced off so that it couldn't be ruined by vandals. This marked the end of our walking tour seeing the Snowdogs. It was a pretty comprehensive look around the city and we got to see most of the main sights. We also saw 35 of the 44 dogs on foot with the remaining ones in a car tour the following week. Sad to say that one was missing (Sparky no.42) and one was in London at Victoria station (45 Brighton Belle). On the whole a satisfying walk and I have no doubt that the success of the initiative will bring a different trail in a couple of years time.