A flock of sheep across the capital

My friends and I have gained something of a reputation for a certain activity in recent years. (Actually, I think we have a number of them!) We are known for our passion for hunting inanimate objects…

Back in 2012 it was eggs; in 2013 Gromits; and in 2014 book benches. Elephants, gorillas, buses, Paddingtons and Olympic mascots have also been pursued individually. We take it seriously – dates are planned far in advance; hotels booked at bargain rates; themed goodies baked; and route maps studied carefully. This is not simply a fun day out, it is a mission to be completed!!

Hunting at St Paul's

This year, we’re hunting sheep. Shaun the sheep to be precise. After the success of Gromit in Bristol 2 years ago, 2015 sees a Shaun trail in London over the spring & a summer one in Bristol. Just to show how serious we are, the trail launched on Saturday and we began it on Monday! (More of a happy accident involving Easter holiday dates really.) So if you’re feeling inspired, you’ve got ages to catch them.

Pleasingly, the organisers have appreciated that adults enjoy these hunts just as much as (if not more than) children. Each model of Shaun, designed by a different artist and sponsored by a different company, has a name and theme. These often have a link with its location, and regularly feature some spectacular punning…

Shaun at the Globe? “To sheep, perchance to dream.”
St Paul’s cathedral? “Baa-roque”
Tate Modern? “Br-ewe-nel”
Canary Wharf? “Golden Fleece”

IMG_9203

The latter was a favourite thanks to its shiny ness and potential for reflective photography. Our efforts even prompted its artist to tweet:

(I can’t claim solo credit for this. We all had a go!)

Based on our experiences yesterday and today (and previous escapades), I’d offer the following tips:

  • Plan your route. The map’s available online (you can pick up hard copies too) or there’s an app. We did it over 2 days, but with an earlier start and better weather you could do it in one. Beginning at Paddington, we did the ‘strays’ first, tubing it to Canary Wharf from Edgware Rd then tubing back to London Bridge for the start of trail 4. Trail was done backwards, ending with the first 2 of trail 2. Day 2 began in Covent Garden, included a trek to the far end of St James’ Park for the final lost sheep & ultimately concluding with Shaun number 1 on Carnaby St!
  • Know your limits! Pressing on too long sucks the fun out of it. If you’re local, and/or have children, do the trails over a few days. Trail 4 is long but worth it for the views!
  • Chat to other hunters. You’ll probably see the same people at different locations, so make friends! (I got teased for doing this.) If you’re alone, all the more reason to chat!
  • Snacks are crucial for pepping up flagging hunters. I like themed ones – egg shaped biscuits were a fun treat for egg hunting and a surprise discovery in a pound shop meant that I could repeat the recipe for Shaun. (We also enjoyed Simnel muffins and mini hot cross buns.)
  • Use the toilets whenever there’s a Shaun in a location with free ones.

This is the first trail we’ve ever completed as a group, which is a big bonus for those of us who like to complete things! Bristol’s set to be a 70 Shaun trail, which is rather daunting – but at least we’ve already got our dinner destinations planned!

Shaun HuntingAll 50 London Shauns

Where are the Gromits?

It is a real joy to be part of a circle of friends who enjoy hunting for things. Whether it be hidden TfL features, elephants, gorillas, or eggs, if a city has enough of them, we’ll hunt them out. The animals and eggs were deliberately created for finding – London’s hosted the Elephant Parade and the Egg Hunt in aid of charity in recent years, while Bristol (not to be outdone) had gorillas two years ago. This year, Bristol has dogs. Gromits, to be precise – you know? As in Wallace and…? Created by Bristolian Nick Park in Aardman Animations Bristol studios.

I would not be kidding if I said our trip had been long in the planning. I can’t remember when we first heard that it was happening, but our 165 message Facebook thread about this trip began on the 14th of January. That, my friends, is what I call advance preparation and planning! [My ISTJ loves this, and it’s ridiculous contrast to my London friends who are led by a load of ENFP’s who never plan anything in advance!] By April, we’d booked hotel rooms and by the beginning of July, our dinner location on Tuesday night was booked. [Pieminister – the only logical place for us to have dinner while in Bristol. Two passions combined!]

And thus, it came to pass that last Tuesday, 8 women, 3 girls and one baby gathered in one city to hunt out up to 79 Gromits. I began the trip one-up on everyone else, having discovered the lone London Gromit on the platform at Paddington station (from which point trains to Bristol begin). We knew we wouldn’t get all of them, as several are outside the city (like the several at Cribbs Causeway and one at Cheddar Gorge), but we were going to have a good bash at getting all those within the city – with a specific aim to beat the 44 the father of two of our party had already spotted.

Paddington GromitPaddington Gromit – No.80 & the original. (On platforms 8/9 if you’re interested…)

These trips are something of an endurance test. On the first day we must have walked at least 7 or 8 miles, with a total of 36 Gromits. The second day involved fewer dogs, but a significant amount of up-hill walking, culminating in some Gromits by the Clifton Suspension Bridge. We were dog tired, but very pleased with our total of 56 (or 57, for me).

Gromit HuntingAll 56 of the Bristol Gromits we hunted down.

Did we feel silly wandering around a city clutching matching maps and hunting out bright coloured dogs? Not a bit of it! Yes, virtually all the people we met along the way had small children with them, but I bet they couldn’t have found 56 Gromits in two days – very small children have no stamina! I expect they would have cried upon being told that another 5 Gromits had to be ticked off before an ice cream could be consumed – we didn’t, we simply obeyed orders and marched on…

It was a huge amount of fun, as Jenni’s fabulous video ably demonstrates:

Oh, and yes, I had a favourite, there was a hands-down winner in that department – No.4 Vincent Van Gromit:

Vincent Van Gromit

Vincent Van Gromit

I had a suspicion that at night, this might prove to have an additional tribute to Van Gogh, and having seen the tweet below, I was proved correct. Genius.

As summer activities go, this was a pretty good one. There are photos aplenty if you want to see the other Gromits (I have a Flickr set and so does the superior photographer Gill), but the best plan is to try and get to Bristol before September 8th and see them for yourself.

Team Gromit Team Gromit with the appropriately placed Gromit at Aardman Studios.