My Boss being my Boss, however, didn't ask for any input at the planning stages, and just went for what seemed like a good idea to him at the time. If he had asked any of the numerous parents we have working here to test walk it first, or tell him what they would look for in a children's trail, it could have all been so different. As for the images en route, some subtle touches like a bell pull on a tree, some wood carvings or sculptures, maybe, would have blended with the landscape and been fun to spot. As it is, the artwork - and I use the term in the loosest possible way - was completed by the wife of one of his mates and can be seen from space.
The final result is a bizarre array of incredibly badly painted pictures, mounted on boards, weathering badly, randomly dotted along a walk that includes two sets of steep steps and a marsh. I have to send people off on this, when they turn up and ask if the Nursery Rhyme Trail is open. I do my best to warn them - sensible footwear, I say. Does involve steps, I warn. I have yet to find a way of saying sorry about the boards, please don't have nightmares.
I shall now take you on a virtual journey, so you can share my anguish.
This is the Wildflower Meadow. Not much in the way of wildflowers at the moment, granted, but still very pretty and perfectly pleasant. So far so good.
But behind you is a horrible thing. You can tell it's meant to be Humpty Dumpty, but it is not even egg shaped. And it has something very wrong with its legs. I wish it'd hurry up and have a great fall, so I can put it in the skip.
Now, this is meant to be Snow White's cottage. The dwarves are bigger than she is though, which bothers me.
The Three Little Pigs. I can accept that the house of straw and the house of sticks will be piss poor, as that's the point. But the house of bricks is meant to be strong and wolf-proof. This interpretation shows that the third little pig didn't bother with any foundations, or mortar, and didn't have enough bricks. The message to the kids is that, by rights, this pig should be so much wolf shit by now and that chicken wire is, in fact, the optimum building material.
What can I say? Oh, for a flame thrower.
After negotiating the steep flight of stairs down the side of the embankment we now find ourselves in the boggy bit. The unwary step off the end of the bridge onto what looks like solid ground, only to find it is actually a big green spongey mass that will suck your shoes off your feet while simultaneously releasing clouds of mosquitos.
Yes. It is supposed to be Mole and Ratty. Mole looks far more like a big poo, inexplicably wearing a suit, though.
What has happened to Tigger's lips? Why is Eeyore so wide?
This is a Billy Goat Gruff. He has been on steroids.
The steps back up to the non-scary world! Not exactly pushchair friendly. Not easy to climb with a toddler in tow, either. You have to lean quite a way to your right to reach the rail, in places, while nettles abound at toddler bare ankle height. Pretty though.
And to complete the tour, the final gate, which opens towards the steps, so if you had managed to get that far with some super all terrain mega pushchair, you now have to reverse back down while trying to open the gate at the same time. Tricky.
Next month I meet with the conservators and curators as part of the property conservation plan. This trail is on my hit list. The good thing about all that flakey, gaudy paint is that those boards are going burn brilliantly.