On Friday 23rd July, residents of Buckingham woke up to a delightful sight as a new family of ten colourful otter sculptures appeared across the town. Organised by Buckingham Town Council, the Buckingham Otter Trail is a free, fun art sculpture event that features 3ft otter sculptures holidaying in shop windows and surrounding green spaces. The public is invited to take part in this family-friendly activity to find all the otters making the perfect day out this summer.
The trail is live now and will continue until Monday 31st August. Buckingham Town Council hopes the art trail will attract both residents and visitors from far and wide to discover and re-discover the town and get Buckingham back to business after lockdown as well as making art accessible to all.
Councillor Margaret Gateley ‘One of my first opportunities as Mayor of Buckingham has been to meet many of the community groups and schools, who have lovingly painted one of the ten otter sculptures, which are part of the Otter Trail. It has been a delight to see their different artistic interpretations and to witness their enthusiasm for their work; this was especially evident when I was able to meet groups of schoolchildren with their own otter. I look forward to walking the trail myself’.
It is easy for people to take part, visitors can pick up a free trail map from the Tourist Information Centre inside the Buckingham Old Gaol, or you can print one yourselves on the link above. The trail is also available to follow on our community heritage exploration app Buxplore. Otter spotters will then be able to pinpoint which otters they want to see, in what order and where in the town they can be found. This also allows visitors to read more about the artists and sponsors behind the project.
Since April, the artists have been busy decorating the otters into beautiful pieces of art for your enjoyment. The funding for the project came from the underspend following events being cancelled during lockdown, and as part of the Town Centre and Event’s Committee’s work to support businesses and encourage more people to head into town. The project was also kindly supported by local businesses and charities who have sponsored an otter making the trail deeply rooted to Buckingham. Read on to hear from all the artists and sponsors behind this great initiative!
Canalotto is sponsored by the Buckingham Canal Society and painted by Zoe Day.
‘The Buckingham Canal Society are proud to be supporting the Buckingham Otter trail. Our aim is to fully restore the 10 miles of the Buckingham Arm of the Grand Union Canal, from Cosgrove right through to Buckingham. At Bourton Meadow, where our otter is located, you can see a restored ¼ mile stretch of the canal, which is a haven for many species of wildlife and flora, including kingfishers, reed warblers, herons, various butterflies, dragonflies and fish species, water voles, and even grass snakes, which love a swim on a warm day’!
‘We welcome new members and volunteers to join us; membership starts from just £4 per year - and our volunteers need no skills other than a desire to get involved, whether weekly or infrequently. We hold regular work parties at Bourton Meadow, Hyde Lane (2 miles from Buckingham) and Cosgrove, during the week and on weekends, or you can volunteer to help with admin, finance, marketing, grant applications - and much more. You can find out more at www.buckinghamcanal.org.uk’
‘We would like to give a special thank you to our amazing Otter Artist, Zoe Day, who is from Buckingham who painted the wonderful Canalotto’.
Zoë Day is a professional artist who has lived in and around Buckingham all of her life. Zoë studied art from a young age learning to paint wildlife with her grandmother. She went on to learn techniques and methods from some of the most prestigious art institutions including the Florence Academy, Oxford’s Ruskin School of Art and the Heatherley’s in Chelsea. Zoë set up her own Art School in 2010 and is still passionate about teaching the joy of painting in her weekly classes, while principally engaged in modern landscape painting and exhibition/commission work.
Zoë’s inspiration for this otter comes from her love of the Buckinghamshire landscape and countryside and is a celebration of this amazing project by the Canal Society to transform a disused waterway into a beautiful sanctuary for local wildlife. Try to see how many different creatures you can spot on her design!
Locki the otter is sponsored by MyFutureSelf Matters with support from local residents Charlotte and Justin who wanted to highlight the amazing work Carl was doing with local Buckingham School children. The young people chose the name ‘Locki’ as this is a reflection of the lock and key covering wallpaper and also reflecting MyFutureSelf’s ability to unlock potential in young people. They got their young people to come up with words that related to their lives and that tied in with emotional well-being, these words were then coloured in by some of the young people completing their mentoring programme.
MyFutureSelf is a mentoring service that supports young people in Buckinghamshire with their mental health, lifestyle and wellbeing. They offer 1:1 support in person or online, the age range MyFutureSelf work with is from 10 to 24 years old. MyFutureSelf aims to equip young people with tools and strategies to increase their emotional health, resilience and improve their overall wellbeing.
Patchy the otter is sponsored by Howes The Florist. They have been on Nelson Street in Buckingham for over 70 years, offering flowers for all of life's big occasions and here to celebrate the small joys too. Their hand delivery floral gifts are created by their wonderful team and are available 6 days a week, delivered locally.
‘The otter trail is a wonderful idea and having grown up in this beautiful market town we wanted to be part of raising the profile of our amazing local community. We are fortunate to be among the families benefitting from YC2 (Young Careers Buckingham), Our three children have attended village schools, as have my parents, Grandparents, Aunts and siblings. The pandemic has shown what an amazing community spirit we have in Buckingham and we are so proud to be part of this wonderful town.’
Patchy was decorated by Year 2 children at Maids Moreton C of E School. They chose an Elmer inspired patchwork design for their otter. The whole class took part, with each child designing and painting a section. The children wanted to make his fur appear realistic so opted for tones of brown. They thoroughly enjoyed the design process and were very proud of their finished product.
Prints of the Future is sponsored by Gawcott Fields Community Solar Project CIC who are a not for profit enterprise which owns a community solar array at Gawcott Fields Farm between Gawcott and Buckingham. The 4.17-megawatt solar array is made up of over 16,000 solar panels and is expected to generate over 4 million kWh of renewable electricity each year. That’s equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of around 1,000 homes. Surplus income generated by the solar array (after operating and financing costs) is used to support community projects in the local area.
Prints of the Future was painted by Roundwood Primary School. They wanted all the children to be part of the painting so they decided the best way to do that was by decorating the sculpture with fingerprints. They named their otter 'Prints of the Future' as one day, in the not-too-distant future, it will be the hands from these prints that serve our community. The children thoroughly enjoyed decorating with their fingerprints and watching as the number of prints grew with a visit to each year group. They really fell for their otter sculpture and were all sad when it had to be collected but they hope people will enjoy finding it as a part of the trail.
Monty the otter is sponsored by Bucks Radio. Bucks Radio is the new sound of Buckinghamshire, aiming to bring local radio back to the county. They have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received so far, and are looking forward to becoming a part of Bucks life. Between them, their team have been working, and broadcasting, in the area for over 40 years, so they believe they understand what matters to you.
Right now they’re broadcasting online, via smart speakers and app, meaning you can take them with you wherever you go. They have the latest news, weather and travel, and loads of community information, including a free What's On Guide and features like Charity Friday.
They are supporting local businesses, and have a variety of advertising and sponsorship packages available, and are happy to talk about bespoke competitions and partnerships.
Monty was painted by children attending Bourton Meadow Academy. They were very excited to receive their otter and decisions turned to how it should be decorated. Many suggestions were submitted but they decided to settle on a doodle design in the style of Mr Doodle. They felt this would allow the children maximum range of creativity whilst have a theme running throughout all the designs. They liked the idea of lots of individual ideas being knitted together through the use of simple black lines.
The children were introduced to the work of Mr Doodle and asked to design their own doodle idea to be included on the otter. They wanted the children to be able to express their creativity so left the theme quite open.
Lacey the otter is sponsored by Barratt and David Wilson Homes.
“Our St Rumbold’s Fields development in Buckingham gave us the opportunity to sponsor the Buckingham Otter Trail this year and we are so proud to get behind such a fantastic community event. We want to encourage people to take part, support local businesses and see some brilliant art created by pupils at Lace Hill Academy. We look forward to the event and to continuing to support the Buckingham community.”
Lacey was decorated by reception children at Lace Hill Academy. They were really excited to be part of the community otter project. The first thing we did was to decide if it was a boy or a girl. We put boy and girl written on two pieces of paper and one was pulled out. The idea for the pattern was inspired by the history of the area around Lace Hill and Buckingham. Many of the street names have a lace or sewing source, Catchpin Street, Bobbins Way, Threads Lane and Linen Lane. The children painted the base colour of dark purple and cream for her tummy and then a ‘lacy’ pattern was stencilled on the top with a doily to break up the base colour. They worked in small groups throughout the week to stencil the patterns. The children then wanted to add some bright colours so they decided on yellows for the tummy and tail and pinks for the main body. The children were very proud of the finished result and were sad when Lacey left to get varnished.
Jeff the otter is sponsored by Heritage and Sons Buckingham. Heritage & Sons are proud to serve the wider community in Buckinghamshire and to support the fantastic Buckingham Otter Trail. They are part of CPJ Field, a leading family-run funeral service provider which operates funeral homes across South East England. At CPJ Field we understand that no two lives are the same, which is why every funeral we arrange is completely individual too. Whether you’re making the arrangements for a loved one or prudently planning your own, we’re here for you in every way.
Over the past three centuries, CPJ Field has been actively owned and managed by the Field family through ten generations. It is our solemn promise to help you to make your funeral experience as personal and individual as possible.
Jeff was decorated by Buckingham Primary School children with the help of local artist Clare Tebboth. Their design was inspired by the natural world around Buckingham and wanted it to reflect the animals, birds and insects they have seen on their many walks during lockdown. The design incorporates lots of ideas taken from the year 6 children and discussions they had around the theme. They liked the idea that you could find lots of different creatures hidden around the sculpture and hoped that it would appeal to both young and old, counting the insects, finding the toad or even the hedgehog!
Clare Tebboth is a primary school teacher at Buckingham Primary school specialising in art. When she is not at school she is an artist exhibiting work in galleries working in predominantly oils and watercolours. She also teaches adults art at Vitreus Art Gallery, Towcester and has been chair for many years of Buckingham Art for All - a popular local community art group.
Jimmy Fisher the otter was sponsored by Buckingham Town Council and lovingly painted by children who attend YC2 Buckingham & Winslow Young Carers with a little bit of help from local designer Kate Lowe.
YC2 enjoyed painting their sculpture at Otter HQ and decided to include their big red balloon logo and thistledown floating in the sky. Designer Kate took all 65 sets of initials of their current register and painted them on in the tiniest lettering meaning Jimmy Fisher will always have a record of each young carer who is a member of YC2 in 2020/21. Further inspiration came and Jimmy has a pretty daisy chain necklace and is holding a large fish that he has just caught and is about to enjoy!
Buckingham and Winslow Young Carers provide regular programmes of activities for children and young people aged 6-18 with significant personal caring responsibilities for one or more family members with physical, mental or learning disabilities an opportunity for rest bite.
Flo the otter was sponsored by Buckingham Town Council and decorated by nurses at Buckingham Community Hospital and water marbling artist Derryn Snowdon.
Derryn took the otter to Buckingham Hospital and the team on duty named her, whilst taking turns to try their hand at water marbling for the very first time which was a very therapeutic artistic day at work. Derryn taught them some of the practices and terms in traditional Turkish marbling and they took to it like ...well as an otter to water! Flo was named after Florence Nightingale, and echo’s the flow in water marbling design and the water where otters live. Flo represents a journey of exploration for us all. The non-marbled parts provide a neutral background to display the marbled parts. The smudges and incomplete patterns draw you in to complete the pattern in your mind.
Olive Otterson the otter is sponsored by The University of Buckingham and has been decorated by their Students’ Union.
‘The University is delighted to participate in the Otter Trail initiative. Positive relationships with our local community are really important to the university and we love seeing residents enjoying our campus facilities. The University has educated thousands of students from all over the world for almost fifty years and we employ many of our staff from within the community. We hope the Otter Trail and our University Otter will encourage families to make use of the University Bookshop and (if Covid guidelines allow) that you make a visit to the Vinson Building and experience the University Café. We very much look forward to welcoming you.'
For enquiries please contact Paul Hodson at Buckingham Town Council on 01280 816426, firstname.lastname@example.org.