The out of town rhinos – first published 22 September 2013

The rhinos come to Southampton from https://www.facebook.com/GoRhinos/?fref=ts
The rhinos arrive in Southampton from https://www.facebook.com/GoRhinos/

The Go Rhinos trail officially ended on 22 September 2013. All the beautiful, colourful rhinos that had been living in our city for ten weeks were being rounded up and taken back to where Go Rhinos began, Marwell Wildlife at Owslebury near Winchester where there are real live rhinos. For ten weeks I’d been wandering around searching for these wonderful sculptures and I’d shared all the city rhinos. Now it was time to share the out of town rhinos. They weren’t always easy to find

22 September 2013

Commando and I were on our way back from a weekend visit to Commando Senior at the farm when Commando suggested going to see Ronnie, rhino number thirty three, who lives at the Ageas Bowl, home of Hampshire cricket. We had to drive past it anyway so it seemed silly not to stop and see if we could find him.

Being more of a football kind of girl than a cricket one, I’ve only been to the Ageas Bowl once, many years ago, for a Dream Factory Christmas party. Back then it was called the Rose Bowl, which sounds much nicer. I imagined a bowl full of roses and a heady scent. There were no roses and it was dark so I didn’t really see much apart from the room where we had our meal.

The first thing I noticed was a huge sculpture of cricket stumps (they are called stumps aren’t they?) with a ball wedged between them. The next thing was the greenest grass I have ever seen, it was so green it didn’t look real. Then the outside of the bowl shaped building. Then Ronnie, standing on a little hill looking like he might have been about to charge the entrance. I’m guessing he likes cricket!

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Artist, Sarah Underwood, a freelance illustrator specialising in commissions for children, was inspired but the quintessentially English game of cricket. Ronnie is decked out with impossibly green grass, cricket balls, the tents of the Ageas Bowl and cricketers knee pads. For me though, the best bit was the little ladybird on his foot. If you want to see more of Sarah’s work check out her website on WordPress, her work is full of humour and I especially love the ginger cat.

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When I was reading some blogs I follow I came across a post about some very out of control teenagers in the USA. They broke into a house and held a drug and alcohol fuelled party, trashing the place in the process. They were caught because, rather stupidly, they posted photographs on social media sites of the whole thing, including their own faces.

The thing that struck me about the story was the reaction of the parents. The home owner did not press charges, but he did post the photographs the little horrors took of themselves on his own website then invited them and their parents to come and help him clean up the mess for a picnic he is hosting for military personnel. Did the parents make their children take responsibility for their actions? No, they are sueing the home owner for posting their children’s photos, even though they had already been made public by the children themselves. What is this world coming to?

Of course this made me think about the local vandals who smashed and damaged the lovely rhinos in our city. Not all of them have been caught but some have and I wonder how their parents reacted? Did they defend the little darlings or did they try to make them learn from their mistakes? I have a good idea what the answer is and it seems to me there needs to be more accountability. Without it things can only get worse.

Thankfully the next rhino was not one of those vandalised. Back at the end of July, just after the fire on the green incident, I went to visit Stylo. He was in a rather familiar place to me. Somewhere I have passed by on so many of my long walks. The day was scorching hot but, despite that, I had a lovely walk, you can read about it here if you want to know more. Eventually, feeling rather dehydrated, I arrived at the airport where rhino number thirty four was living. For some reason I thought he’d be on the roundabout under the Spitfire that looks like it’s just about to land there. He wasn’t.

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If he wasn’t on the roundabout, surely he would be standing outside the airport, nice and easy to spot. Wrong, there was no sign of him. There was a giant Costa cup though which, of course, had me thinking about coffee, well I had walked over four miles! It seemed quite odd to be going inside the airport without any luggage and with no plane to catch. In fact I half expected someone to ask to see my passport.

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Inside there was no rhino to be seen, just lots of people with luggage waiting for planes. Pretty much what you’d expect from an airport and I should know, I’ve hung around in enough of them. This was the first time I’ve ever been in one without somewhere to fly to though. The rhino might have been invisible but Costa wasn’t so I went and ordered a latte, the better to help me look.

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Maybe it was having some caffeine inside me helping my concentration, then again, it could have been the security guard I stopped and asked, rather sheepishly, if he’d seen a rhino. Anyhow, I found him, behind a little white picket fence surrounded by would be travellers. He was worth the four mile walk. He was even worth the fours miles I had to walk home.

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Stylo Rhino was sponsored by the Southampton Hoteliers Association and painted by Deven Bhurke, a commercial artist specialising in pencil drawings and photography. When Deven first saw the blank rhino sculpture he felt it had a ‘bit of an attitude’ and his design really reflects this. Stylo is a punk rhino, stark white with a black tribal tattoo design, the most amazing red punk Mohican and an interesting piercing. I love him to bits! He’s my kind of rhino and I bet he isn’t a vandal either.

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The Winchester rhino was probably the most difficult to find. In mid July, we were going through an almost unprecedented heat wave which, coming after one of the wettest springs in my memory, meant high humidity. Not the best of walking conditions but I had a mission to find walk the whole Itchen Navigation to find it. The walk was interesting, if difficult because of the heat, but the tough part came when I reached Wincehster.

The maze of narrow, winding streets got me hopelessly lost and I ended up going in completely the wrong direction. The long walk, the heat, a lack of food and a need to get back home before Commando left for work got the better of me and, feeling very hot and grumpy, I abandoned my plan to find the rhino and caught the train home. It was not my finest hour.

The next weekend Commando took me on a magical mystery tour in the car. Maybe he felt sorry for me walking all that way without actually finding the rhino, maybe there was a touch of guilt because I’d needed to get back for him. Whatever the reason he did a very nice thing. He drove me to Winchester to find the rhino.

There was actually a little bit of getting lost, even with Commando and the sat nav, so I didn’t feel quite so bad about getting lost myself, on foot, when I was hot, tired and hungry. The rhino was in the Holiday Inn, Winchester and we drove past it once before we found the entrance. It really isn’t the easiest place to find, even when you’re right on top of it.

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For some reason I’d expected the rhino to be right outside and easy to spot but it wasn’t so Commando parked up in the car park and I went off in search of it. It seemed this rhino was far better hidden than all the others. As I walked past the front of the hotel, peering in just in case I could see it through the glass, I had a sinking feeling, was this going to be the rhino that defeated me?

It wasn’t anywhere to be seen on the grassy bank beside the hotel, I hadn’t seen it through the glass windows of the reception and there didn’t appear to be any way to get round the back of the hotel. There was no way I was going back empty handed though so I went inside. For many years my job meant walking into hotels I was never going to stay in all over the world just for a look around. This was the first time I’d ever gone up to the reception desk and asked, “do you have a rhino here?” though. I’m guessing it’ll be the last time too.

The receptionist wasn’t at all phased by the question, she just smiled and said, “yes, it’s downstairs in the bar.” When I asked if it would be ok to go and have a look she said, “lots of people have come to see it, you can even have a drink if you like.”
A second receptionist was on her way to the bar and offered to take me there which was probably a good thing, given the amount of getting lost that seemed to go along with this particular rhino. The bar was actually outside on a sunny little patio with dark wicker furniture, clipped box lollipops and tall urns filled with lavender. If Commando hadn’t been sitting waiting in the car I’d have happily sat sipping a latte enjoying the sun and the view. As it was I had to content myself with a few photos.

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Artist Nathan Smith painted Coral right there in the reception area of the hotel over a five day period and the ‘show’ became quite a hit with the guests. Nathan also painted rhino number two, Rita, hidden behind Canute’s Palace in Southampton’s old walls and rhino number three, Reggie, standing on the hill by the Woolhouse. Coral is an aquarium filled with clown fish. The closer you look the more fish you can see.

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Back in July thirty six rhinos arrived in the city, taking me by surprise one sunny lunchtime as I sat sipping coffee in the park. So far I’ve told you all about thirty five of them. That means there is one left, the Marwell rhino. When the boys were younger we took them to Marwell form time to time. On ethical grounds I’m not a great fan of zoos, although, as a child, I enjoyed seeing animals I’d otherwise never have had the chance to. Marwell isn’t really a zoo though. Founded in 1972 by John Knowles it is a one hundred and forty acre park, one of the earliest to work towards animal conservation. Since it opened it has become a breeding centre for several species that are already extinct in the wild and others that are close to extinction.

Marwell is also a registered charity, working for international conservation. Currently they are involved in managing biodiversity in Hampshire, protecting the ecosystem of Grevy’s Zebra in Kenya and supporting vulnerable animals in Zimbabwe. Not only that but the charity works towards reintroducing extinct animals or those on the edge of extinction to the wild. These include the wild horse, golden lion, tamarind, scimitar horned oryx and roan antelope.

Of course Marwell is also concerned with protecting the rhino which is really what Go Rhinos was all about. Bringing me back to the final rhino, Mechanico. Commando and I made a quick detour to see him on the way back from visiting Commando Senior on the farm. We drove up to the roundabout at the entrance to the park and there he was, simple as that.

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Really, there should have been some kind of fanfare, it was the final rhino after all. There wasn’t, so I got out of the car, wandered over and took a picture. Designed by LucanArt who also painted Will, the rhino who stood under the Mayflower Memorial, he is a tribute to the inventors who have made Britian great, creating weird and wonderful gadgets and gizmos in their sheds. With his armour plating and the odd little man inside operating him he’s a little like a rhino shaped tank. He may not be my favourite but he’s quirky and funny and I like that.

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So that is the end of the rhinos trail. You’ve followed me round the streets looking for them all and now we’re done. It’s kind of sad but all good things come to an end. Now I guess I’m going to have to find other things to make me smile each day. Maybe I should take up geocaching!

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Published by

Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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