Invasion of the giant snails and pest control

26 May 2017

The round of waiting rooms and blood tests is far from over but a steroid injection means Commando is feeling much better. It isn’t a cure, investigations are still ongoing, but, for now, he is making the most of it. In fact he’s become a little stir crazy. Word had it that the new Watermark Plaza had been invaded by giant rainbow coloured snails. In fact I kept seeing photos of them on Facebook so, today, I thought we could drive over and have a look at them for real before they all slithered off. 

Frankly, I’m not usually a fan of snails. They and their slug cousins wreak havoc in my garden, eating things as soon as I’ve planted them. These snails were a little different though. For one, each was the size of a small car and, as they were made of recycled plastic, the local vegetation was safe. From the top of the forty steps we caught site of the first of them. They were a beautiful cobalt blue.

The snails were designed by Cracking Art, a movement born in Biella in 1993 aiming to changing the history of art with their colourful animal sculptures in everyday places. The idea is to surprise people with these giant sized creatures in bright colours and make them see urban life in cities in a different way. This is the snail’s first visit to the UK, although they have previously been on display in the United States, Thailand, Australia, China and Russia.

Unlike the rhinos and zebras there was no trail around the city. All the snails were scattered about the plaza at the foot of the medieval walls. They must surely be one of the more surreal things to have graced the medieval shore line  but they certainly brightened the place up and created a sense of fun. We strolled slowly along the bottom of the walls in the bright sunshine admiring the vivid colours.

We’d reached the bottom of Catchcold Tower when I noticed a man coming towards us with a hawk on his shoulder. On any other day this might have seemed a bit odd but, with the giant snails everywhere it was hard to be surprised.
“I think that’s one of the hawks they use to deter the seagulls and pigeons,” Commando said.

The glorious bird was a Harris Hawk and he and his human friend were on a break so we had the chance to chat. The raptor didn’t have much to say but his companion explained that if the gulls and pigeons see a hawk regularly flying around they get the idea this is not a good place to feed or nest. The hawks don’t actually attack the gulls or pigeons but their presence frightens the pests away. The idea is to let the hawk fly at random times from different places so the gulls and pigeons never quite know when to expect it.

It all seems a far better way of keeping the pesky gulls and pigeons from stealing food and pooping everywhere than poisoning them. The added bonus is that we get to see these wonderful raptors up close. As jobs go, this must be one of the better ones to have.

After a while we left our new friends and wandered towards Arundel tower, stopping along the way to admire more of the giant snails. The colourful snail trail led us all the way to the steps to Portland Terrace. The final snail was fuchsia pink and sat at the bottom of Arundel Tower. If there has ever been a real life snail in such a vivid shade of pink I’ve never seen one. Then again I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bright yellow, grass green or cobalt blue snail either. I guess that is the whole point of the exercise.

The grassy hillock at the base of the tower has been allowed to grow wild rather than being mowed. The wildflowers have taken full advantage and I can see this becoming a favourite place to stop and take photos as the seasons change. It will be interesting to see what wildflowers appear.

The day was far too sunny to sit inside drinking coffee so we grabbed a couple of takeaway lattes from Costa, walked through the Bargate arch and headed for the enchanted park, just as I used to do on those far off days when I worked at Silver Helm. Oh how I miss those quiet lunchtime drinks and the morning and evening walks. Every day there was something new to see and some, like the brave little rhododendron that bloomed all through winter and finally died just as my job came to an end, have stuck with me to this day.

Right now the flowers of spring are busy fading and the colours of summer just beginning to appear. While Commando rested on my favourite bench in the sun, I took a wander along the meandering path through the bower of fresh green willow leaves to the swaying alliums near road. Then I turned back and we made our way across the parks towards the car.

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

11 thoughts on “Invasion of the giant snails and pest control”

    1. Apparently they use them all over the place, the hospital, WestQuay and goodness knows where else. It seems a far more natural and humane way of dealing with the gull/pigeon problem.

  1. Odd that I didn’t hear a thing about the snails being here. When I saw the first one I thought it was another rhino / zebra hunt.
    I’m surprised that the hawk puts up with its handler’s smoking.
    It’s hard to find anything good about health problems but at least you get to take walks like this one together for a while.

    1. I’m not sure where in America the snails were but I’m glad they came here. I think you’d have liked the blue ones.

  2. As an ex sotonian I’m really surprised and happy to see such things in Soton,it looks a much more interesting town than when I lived there [in the 60s]

    1. They have made great progress in the last few years. The new Watermark Development is a great place for exhibitions like this.

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