by Katie Isham.
Sometime last year, something magical sparked on the streets of Sholing, Southampton. The ordinary green telephone cabinets took on a brighter look. Neon animals crept out of the undergrowth and onto the metal canvas. Or so it seemed.
In truth, local artist Joanna Rose Tidey was behind this beautiful transformation. She spent her time, talent and creativity to bring joy and illuminous excitement to our suburbs. Earlier this month, she completed the sixth in the set: the hedgehog has landed. Now there are six shining beacons of nature and art just loitering on street corners, it would be rude not to visit them.
To walk between all six boxes is about a five-kilometre journey, but other routes and diversions may take longer. Choose your time and set out on the pilgrimage.
Start on the corner of Bishops Road and Wodehouse Road. These are two of the main thoroughfares of Sholing and close to the train stations and bus routes. Here sits the bunny box with a rainbow always appearing on our path. He fits well here as the lines of criss-crossing suburban streets are akin to a rabbit warren. Make a wish and head north towards the Veracity ground.
Cross the grassy playing field along the footpaths to reach Merryoak Road. Turn right and follow the road towards the Merryoak of its name. As the cluster of shops, facilities and takeaways comes into view, you’ll spot a stalwart of the British countryside skulking below the trees. Although far from camouflaged, the bright badger appears at home amongst the copse of wintering trees.
Nod hello and continue through Merryoak and over to Deacon Avenue. Pass Itchen College on the right then take a sharp right at the next crossing to skirt the other side of the college. On the left, at the entrance to St. Aubin’s Avenue sits the next natural wonder. It may currently be too cold for most bees but these are certainly buzzing.
Continue down Middle Road; pass the skeletal lime trees on the left and then the line-up of educational establishments on the right. At the Robin Hood pub, swing left onto South East Road. A quick dip down and up the hill and another pub is on the horizon. Opposite the Spike Islander lurks the wily fox in all her luminous glory.
Follow South East Road further, taking a right turn at St. Monica. Along here pass more schools, churches and the iconic Sholing Video. As the road curves and transforms into Station Road, take the gate into Miller’s Pond Local Nature Reserve. Enjoy a stroll along the eastern banks with the fields on the left to emerge at Portsmouth Road. Duck under the railway bridge and head up the formidable Wright’s Hill. The effort will be worth it as a prickly friend greets you hidden in the hedge at the top.
Then head into the grounds of Mayfield Park. The nursery, gardens or playground may offer a diversion. Back on the route, take the path alongside Wright’s Hill back down to ground level. Through the arch of the other railway bridge, Miller’s Pond is back in our sights.
A path to the left steers around the western edge of the pond and emerges back onto Station Road, albeit further down and opposite the pub named after the waterway. Hook an immediate left and you’ll spy the soaring sight of a psychedelic owl.
Now all six have been spotted, the walk is done. Or you can take a right at Spring Road to walk down to rejoin Wodehouse and complete the Sholing Safari loop.
A walk like this is a purposeful stroll. Some exercise in collecting all the objects in the collection scratches the childhood treasure hunt itch. For those unsure of a route, it gives colourful guidance. But the boxes are as powerful individually as they are together. Every time I pass one, it brings a smile to my face, and I know I’m not alone.
Thanks to Joanna’s dedication and imagination, children cry, “Fox! Fox!” as the glorious vixen sneaks into view. Joanna’s art is so beautiful and is often seen in frames and on walls, but here in Sholing, we’re blessed to have it adorning our daily routes through life. Isn’t something that brightens your day, inspires discussion or motivates the mind the real point of art?
Cost: Free to walk the route but there are stops where you may need a bit of spare change.
Accessibility: Sholing is found on the east side of the city not far from Itchen Bridge. There are two local train stations in Sholing and Woolston and the area is served by several bus routes. The route is mostly pavement but this particular plan cuts through Miller’s Pond and Mayfield which can be muddy and soggy, but can be avoided by taking a longer way around.
Facilities: Shops, colleges, vets, pubs, churches, parks, garden centres, cafes: a whole host of facilities available on this route.
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