In 2013, Bristol-based animators Aardman came up with the concept of Gromit Unleashed, a treasure hunt with 80 decorated Gromit the Dog sculptures hidden in various locations around Bristol. You could download a map or buy the app and sniff out all 80 statues, snapping pictures with them as you went along. The dafter the pose you pulled the better. The venture raised over £2.3 million for Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal, a charity that supports Bristol Children’s Hospital. It was a fun day out that equally promoted being outdoors and walking. A few months after this event, I saw in the news that another trail was to be organised for 2015, this time with Shaun the Sheep as the star of the show. Needless to say, I got in touch with my friend who did the Gromit Unleashed trail with me and we agreed to do Shaun in the City, too.
The Shaun in the City trail is based on the same premise of Gromit Unleashed, but on a much larger scale: 120 sculptures, 50 dotted around London between 28th March and 25th May, then 70 scattered around Bristol between 6th July and 31st August. After this, the whole flock will be on show in both Bristol (12th – 20th September) and London (24th – 27th September). I organised a weekend in London in April with said friend. This blog details a few of my observations.
Purchase the Sheep Spotter app
This app was invaluable for us on our journey around the trail. It contains a map showing the location of each sheep and uses the GPS on your smartphone to detect when you get close to the sculptures. It vibrates when it thinks you’re in the vicinity, so if map reading is not your forte then this app is for you. The app also contains information on the designer of each sculpture and the idea behind the design. If the sheep you are looking for is inside a building, the opening times are also displayed in on the individual sculpture’s page. To add to the fun, you also win trophies after completing certain sections of the trail, such as the Shaun Sleuth trophy for finding your first 5 Shauns.
If you don’t have GPS on your device or if, for whatever reason, the GPS does not detect that you’ve found a Shaun, there is a four-digit code on the base of each sculpture. Enter this into your app to tally up another sheep on your trail. This feature is good for taking up time if there’s a crowd around the Shaun you’ve just found and you’re waiting to take pictures of it.
Take a printed map or a spare battery for your smartphone/tablet
Although the app was a Godsend, it drained my battery at an alarming rate. We stopped for lunch at Pho in the One New Change shopping centre where they kindly let us charge our phones, otherwise my friend and I would have been out of battery. Alternatively, there is a map depicting the trail that you can download and print out.
Do the trail over at least two days
I underestimated the time it would take to walk to all 50 statues in the centre of London. Unless you get up at the crack of dawn and power at it all day, the chances are you’ll need more time (I’d say at least two days) to do this trail and enjoy it. I spotted four Shauns before I met up with my friend (the two at Paddington and the two at Canary Wharf – a coincidence as my train rolled into the former station and my hotel was around the corner from the latter) and found a total of 43 Shauns. Going at this pace was quite tiring, especially once we got to more crowded tourist areas such as Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square which drained me of energy trying to get through the crowds.
London is a massive tourist hub, so you are bound to get crowds around the statues – no matter whether these people are actually doing the trail or not. We heard lots of: “That looks like Shaun the Sheep!” and “What’s this sheep statue all about?” on our travels. The patience factor also comes in where little children are involved. When we did the Gromit Unleashed trail in Bristol there seemed to be an unspoken rule that you all took your turn and if somebody was there before you, you let them go first. This was not the case during our day out in London, unfortunately.
The Shaun in the City trail is a great way to see the sights of London
Walking from statue to statue, we were able to take in lots of sights that you would miss on the tube: St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Gherkin, the Tower of London, and London Bridge to name but a few. You can also connect the dots between them and get to know London better. The organisers have cleverly placed some of the statues so you can get great pictures of them in front of some of the sights, e.g. A Capital View in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral or Petal with London Bridge in the background. The trail is also carefully planned so you don’t stray off into dark alleys; you can tell that the organisers have really put a lot of thought into the locations and tried to tie the theme of the statue in with its location.
The trail is suitable for all ages
The trail is obviously going to be great for kids as the star of the show is a well-loved animated character. However, when we were in London it was plain to see that people of all ages were out Shaun spotting, despite the incredulous look we got from a mother of three (“Are you doing the trail, too?” she asked in disbelief. “Yes, we’ve found 34 so far!” responded my friend, smiling as we dashed off to the next Shaun statue). The designs are also varied: some will be a favourite among children, while some will appeal to young adults and some to old pensioners. My personal favourites were Globetrotter and To Sheep Perchance to Dream.
Some statues are hidden in plain sight
It comes as no surprise when I say that London is a crowded city. Some of the sheep along the banks of the River Thames and in Covent Garden were particularly hard to find due to the crowds of people. In fact, we couldn’t find the two around Covent Garden due to the crowds gathering for the Olivier Awards. The sculptures were either moved for safety reasons or right under our noses but we couldn’t see them as there were too many people around. This makes the trail more challenging, but also more frustrating, especially if you’re limited on time like I was.
So there you have my observations and tips. I had a great time and I hope you have fun spotting Shaun statues! I found 43 and my friend found 39. Are you going or have you been? How many did you find?