Over the last few weeks, I have been out hunting hares. Before you turn the page in disgust, let me make it clear that this activity is very different from hare coursing, and no hares were harmed in the writing of this column.
I am lucky enough to live in the centre of Faringdon, which nestles at the foot of Folly Hill, atop which a gothic Rapunzel tower stands and around which a prince might come a-galloping at any moment. From the forest at its foot, views stretch over the Thames Valley to the North, and to the south you can see Uffington’s White Horse striding along the Ridgeway. Right now, as if this wasn’t magical enough, over the summer there have been giant hares romping through the town, each colourful enough to make Joseph, of Dreamcoat fame, green with envy.
In search of five-foot hares
To pick off these five-foot hare sculptures, I was armed with several days, a small child, a pencil and a Cotswold Hare Trail map. I might have been better off with a Robin Hood approach and a longbow, as neither navigation nor walking were the strong suit of The Toddler in tow – and woe betide the aunt who doesn’t find the correctly-decorated hare, despite a clear explanation it was in an entirely different town. It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘a bad hare day’ (sorry). And can you imagine the tears when the Royal Hare Force leveret didn’t fly?
Mind you, in Faringdon this might not be too much of an unreasonable expectation, because it’s the sort of quirky place where anything could happen, and pigs might fly. Admittedly, a flying pig might be one step too far, but sitting in the town square on a sunny summer afternoon, a square which Salvador Dali famously strode through in a diver’s helmet, gazing up at the sky, I saw a fuschia pink pigeon fly overhead. I hadn’t been drinking and it wasn’t the result of rose-tinted glasses – it turns out that these are the legacy of the dyeing days (the e is critical) of the eccentric Lord Berners, who lived in Faringdon House in the 1930s. For his amusement, he coloured fantail pigeons all the hues of the rainbow, and had a giraffe roam the ground to boot. Someone’s still at it today.
Rumour has it that a giraffe still resides up by the Folly, so when we’ve finished with the hares we can move onto big game hunting without needing to splash out on expensive air fares.