26 July 2016
With some difficulty we found our way out of Ocean Village and back to Canute Road. Soon the familiar sight of South Western House was in front of us, along with our next zebra. Henman, sponsored by Barratt Homes, stood opposite the imposing building at the entrance to Queens Park. It took us quite a while to get across the road to have a proper look at him.
Even when we got there we had to wait while a queue of other zebra spotters took their photos. It was a shame we couldn’t have spent longer looking at his grassy, map like stripes. Rachel Blackwell painted him with lots of detail, busy bees, some wearing sunglasses, mushroom houses blowing bubbles from their chimneys, button flowers, butterflies and dandelion seeds floating in the sky along with the odd fairy.
CJ said he knew where the next zebra was because he’d seen it when he was visiting one of his friends in town a while back. We dispensed with the map on the app and headed across Queens Park towards the Casa Brazil restaurant I’ve been meaning to visit for a while.
Once this was an area of lammas land and salt marsh stretching from the Old Bowling Green to Cross House. The area that is now Queen’s Park belonged to Queen’s College, Oxford and, when the park was created in 1885, the name remained. Recently the park has undergone quite an overhaul. When improvements were made to Platform Road and the gyratory system around the park was no longer necessary, the park expanded to include car park space and was given a revamp. We found the aptly named Rio, sponsored by Casa Brazil, easily.
Painted by Martin Davey in the colours of the Brzillian flag with Olympic symbols Rio celebrates the Olympic Games being held in his namesake city this summer. Once more we had to queue to take our photographs but soon we were heading back into the park in search of our next zebra.
We spotted Zayla, sponsored by Xebra Accounting and painted by Julian Masson, hiding behind the General Gordon Memorial. We almost didn’t notice her at first because the beautiful display of flowers around the marble Corinthian columns distracted us. The cross topped memorial celebrates the life of Major-General Charles George Gordon, who lived in an elegant house on Rockstone Place where there is, I’m told, a plaque.
Gordon served in the Crimean war and the second Opium War and was later Governor General of Sudan. In February 1884 he was sent to Khartoum where he evacuated two thousand six hundred soldiers and civilians ahead of the blockade of the city by Mahdist forces. At the time Egypt controlled Sudan but was a British protectorate. The siege of Khartoum, led by rebel leader Muhammad Ahmad, lasted until January 1885 when the Mahdists finally broke into the city, killing the entire garrison of Egyptian soldiers and some four thousand Sudanese civilians. Gordon was killed on the steps of the governor’s palace when Mahdists stormed it. Muhammad Ahmad went on to become ruler of Sudan, establishing a religious state, the Mahdiyah, and harshly enforcing Sharia law.
We stopped for a moment to read the inscription on the base of the memorial before walking around to have a look at Zayla. She was certainly a handsome beast, her zebra stripes overlaid with a web of pink, yellow and blue lines inspired by computer animation. Apparently she looks especially good at night although I’m not sure if the paint of the lines glows in the dark or not. We didn’t have time to hang around to find out. There was another zebra to see just across the road in the Vokes Memorial Gardens.
These gardens were created in the 1930’s on the site of The Platform, an area where cannon and artillery once defended the city. They were planted in memory of Alderman Frederick Vokes, chairman of the council’s public lands committee from 1923 until his death in 1927. It was a fitting memorial for a man who spent his life improving Southampton’s parks. Sadly, the changes to Platform Road ate into the little garden and it has changed beyond recognition. There are now grassy terraces broken up by low stone walls and newly planted trees but, sadly, no flowers as yet.
Yet again we had to wait a while to photograph Seafaring zebra. Some children ran up to it just as we arrived and began to climb on it. Of course, I told them to get off, pointing out the sign. When their mothers finally caught up with them I admitted I’d told their children off.
“People keep telling them to stop climbing in the zebras,” one mother said, ” but they still keep doing it.”
It seemed to me the mother herself should be doing a little more to control her children and teach them some respect for the artwork around the city but I kept my mouth shut.
“I would never have climbed on a zebra,” CJ whispered as she walked away, “and if I did and you told me off I wouldn’t have done it twice.”
When they’d gone we had a good look at ABP Southampton’s zebra. His stripes come in the shape of all the different ships that go in and out of the port, along with some hidden blue zebras.
We had a bit of a walk to our next zebra, along WestQuay Road to Harbour Parade and the Carnival House, home of Cunard and P&O. Thankfully the disobedient children and their mothers were headed off towards the walk the walls zebras where I’m sure they climbed to their hearts content without a word from their mothers. By the time we arrived I was regretting not waiting around at Steak of the Art for the coffee machine to warm up. My mouth was as dry as a bone and my tummy was grumbling.
Captain Stripes was worth the walk. Designed by Will Rosie, owner of Wild About Art and a name I recognised from the Go Rhinos Trail back in 2013. Will is a Wizzard with mosaic tiles and his rhino Enrhinomental outside the Scandia Building was an emerald delight of contoured tiles. Enrhinomental was bought by John ‘Rhino’ Edwards of Status Quo and now goes under the name of Alan and lives in a garden in London.
Captain Stripes is, unsurprisingly, also a mosaic zebra but these tiles pick out the pattern of a Union Flag. This seems quite fitting for a zebra sponsored by the P&O and Cunard cruise companies who fly under the British Red Ensign flag. I think I fell a little in love with him.
Our next zebras were in the WestQuay shopping centre. As we walked towards it I began to regret my promise to go back to Steak of the Art for our coffee because the Cotas there was calling loudly. We had to improvise a little on our route because the building of Watermark, the new WestQuay phase II, meant we couldn’t simply cross the road and walk through to the entrance. In a moment of genius I suggested walking up the stairs of the giant WestQuay car park and across the covered bridge into the back of the shopping mal. It was a bit of a climb but it saved us walking right round the building. It was also the first time I’ve ever been in the car park or across the bridge.
Luckily it didn’t take long to find Ze-Bee on the ground floor, mostly because I’d already walked past him on a shopping trip. Obviously Ze-Bee is sponsored by WestQuay and he celebrates the bumble bee with his black and yellow stripes and wings. Beside him was a board telling a sweet story of a zebra from another planet who came to earth because all the other zebras teased him. Here he found a beehive and the bees gave him wings and antennae. It made me smile.
The app told us there were two zebras in WestQuay and I had an idea he’d be upstairs, although I hadn’t seen him. Leaving the Costa temptation behind on the ground floor, we climbed the stairs to the upper level. Here it was crowded and I was eager to find the zebra and get out as quickly as possible. I don’t like crowds at the best of times and I’d forgotten there was a new Costa in Te revamped Next shop. Luckily it didn’t take long to find Zoot Suit, the Ageas Bowl zebra.
Painted by Jenny Leonard he wears a striking black and yellow pinstripe suit, a fetching hat and spats. He’s a real throwback to the 1950’s. We took our photos as quickly as we could, ticked him off our list and, averting our eyes from the coffee shop, made a dash for the exit onto the Above Bar precinct.
The original plan for the day was to tick off the Ocean Village and WestQuay zebras then the one at the top of the precinct, before looking through Houndwell Park to see the ones we’d missed in East Street. Unfortunately, the zebra at the top of the precinct was AWOL, having been vandalised. It was time for a change of plan.
“Maybe the zebra by Westgate will be back by now,” CJ suggested.
It sounded like a plan, so we set off towards Bargate. If we had stuck to our original plan we’d never have discovered that the scaffolding has been removed from the iconic gate to the old town. The hoardings were still up so we couldn’t walk through the arch but the lovely building, hidden for so long, looked cleaner than I’ve ever seen it.
“I wonder how long it will be before its open again?” CJ said as we turned right on Bargate Street towards Castle Way.
I didn’t have time to speculate because another, unexpected zebra caught my attention. If we’d stuck to our original plan we might not have seen him at all. This was Zoostar, the Bluestar bus zebra, painted by Deven Bhurke. As you’d expect he’s Bluestar blue and is covered with buses driven by cartoon animals representing those found at Marwell. Behind him fourteenth century town mayor, John le Fleming, looked over the wall. I couldn’t help wondering what he’d make of the colourful zebra.
With one more zebra ticked off we crossed Castle Way and made our way through the car park to the wall by Catchcold Tower. We knew there were no zebras to be found here but I wanted a peek over the wall at the progress on the Watermark building work. The huge building is certainly taking shape now but, more interesting, at least to me, was the work going on at the base of the wall. This will be a plaza with water features overlooking the medieval walls. It’s somewhere I’m sure I will spend some time and, right now, work is going on to lay some exciting looking mosaic tiles. I can’t wait to see the finished thing.
In the past we’d have simply walked down the forty steps to Western Esplanade and down to West Gate to see if the missing zebra had been returned. The steps are blocked off at the moment though while work goes on below. We walked along the battlements of Forest View, where once there really was a view of the New Forest, with our fingers crossed that the gate at the end would be open. Thankfully it was and we crossed the metal bridge over the exposed vault and went down the steps by the Garderobe. This was probably the first flushing toilet in England, a three story tower containing a latrine, the flush being provided by the tide. Sadly, the tower is long gone and just the foundations remain.
It was a relief to see our detour was not in vain. There was a zebra on the street in front of the gate. Once this area was waterfront lined with houses owned by rich merchants. After the French raids on the town in 1338 though, Edward III ordered a wall to be built around the town. To the annoyance of the merchants their houses were incorporated into the wall, the sea facing doors and windows bricked up. When you look closely at the wall you can see the remains of them to this day.
The repaired zebra stood right outside Westgate. Part of the town defences, it would have once had a strong portcullis and guards to challenge anyone who tried to enter. Henry V and his troops passed through here on their way to the Battle of Agincourt as did the Pilgrim Fathers as they headed for the Mayflower and a new life in America.
Snappy, the Denplan zebra, painted by Michelle Heron, is a nod to the fact that the sea once lapped at this gate. He’s half zebra half shark with a fin on his back and some sharp looking teeth. Thankfully, I don’t think there were ever sharks in Southampton Water but Snappy looks rather fierce, a suitable guard for the old town gate.
As we’d already seen the zebras along the waterfront we walked through the gate and along Blue Anchor Lane towards the High Street and our final two zebras of the day. These were baby zebras we’d missed last time and we didn’t have much trouble finding them.
The first was Save Zebras, created by St Swithun Wells Catholic Primary School. He was in the doorway of Vikki Pink Beauty. Someone was having acrylic nails applied and the smell was fairly overpowering so we didn’t hang about. We took a photo of this colourful little chap, a mass of stripes, squiggles and spots, and set off to find our last zebra.
This one came with a heavy dose of temptation because it was in Mettricks coffee shop and, despite picking up bottled water in a shop earlier, I was desperate for a coffee. Yet again I wished I hadn’t promised to go back to Steak of the Art but a promise is a promise so we ducked into Mettricks, snapped a photo of Zeb, Fryern Infants School zebra and left. This was most certainly a disservice to poor Zeb who is covered in the cut out marbled handprints of all the school children.
So, our zebra hunt was over for the day and we marched as fast as we could back to Ocean Village. This turned out to be an excellent move, despite all the earlier regret and longing for coffee stops. I’m pretty sure the young lady in Steak of the Art was surprised to see us back but she smiled, showed us to a table with a great view of the mural on the wall and said she’d bring our coffee to us.
Beside us on the purple and pink painted wall was a painting I wish I’d had the money to buy. Entitled Stanley Terrace and painted by Fiona Shaw it depicted a sweet row of terraced houses, each a little different to the next, with smoke coming from the chimneys. I loved it but didn’t happen to have a spare £350 in my pocket, or my bank account for that matter.
We lingered over our coffee, drinking in the colourful atmosphere and looking around at the other paintings hanging on the walls. It was good coffee. When we’d finished we went up to the counter to pay.
“It’s on the house,” the young lady said.
“Sorry?”I thought I must have been hearing things.
“There’s no charge. Call it my treat.”
It isn’t often that happens. In fact I don’t ever remember it happening before. One thing is for sure though, this won’t be my last visit to Steak of the Art.
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