Cows About Cambridge 2021 – Trail Review

Moss Cow‘ by Chris Pointon

Monday 28th June – Saturday 4th September 2021

A new herd about town brings a dash of colour and creative flair to the banks of the River Cam with the arrival of Cows about Cambridge from Wild in Art. This new sculpture event in the traditional university city takes place across the city over the Summer Months providing an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to discover an enjoyable and colourful display of artistry from local schools and community groups. There are 90 statues to discover on your trail divided between 44 large cow statues on the streets and in the open spaces in the city and 46 smaller calves to find in stores and museums throughout Cambridge. The trail is entirely free, and provides an ideal opportunity to get back out and about after long periods inside in recent months to discover new parts of this historic city away from the universities and colleges in the centre. From the modern and clean Cambridge University Press in the South to the rustic Museum of Cambridge in the North, it’s a vast but achievable trail that provides a healthy challenge and generous rewards to get out and about to discover all the hidden locations of this amazing statues. An interactive, paid for app with funds going to charity accompanies the trail providing a digital, interactive element with rewards for unlocking and discovering cows on your trails from local discounts to prize draws.

Wild in Art have been creating art events both in the UK and internationally for over a decade, creating programmes and events in collaboration with local charities and community groups that feel unique and distinct to the area and showcase the artistic capabilities of the host environment. It’s a platform to highlight the best of both amateur and professional artists in equal measure, an opportunity to bring a celebration of local art to the community in a visible and open domain whilst raising funds for local charities in the process. These trails take place across the entire country, with a half dozen events in the UK over the Summer this year affording an opportunity for families and friends to explore and enjoy the environment around them and to bring visitors into the respective host cities opening the country up once again. From elephants in Kent to lighthouses in the Shetland Islands, its a touch of levity, good humour and cheer appealing to the best British tradition of not taking ourselves too seriously at a time when we desperately need something to enjoy. When the Cow trail comes to an end in September these magnificent statues will be auctioned off to raise funds for the children’s charity Break moving to their new permanent homes both near and far. For now, a perfect opportunity to pull on your boots and go exploring around this majestic location.

MooMoo-O-Tron III‘ by Dinky Doors

Cows About Cambridge

Cambridge is an amazing city to visit and explore, from the beautiful architecture of the colleges and universities to the open spaces of its greens and gardens. It benefits being a short distance from London and opens up itself up as both an academic and leisure destination that is easily accessible to both domestic and international visitors alike. With a focus on public transport and cycling, also a forward thinking location when looking at environmentalism and sustainability. Cambridge, and this particular trail, is mainly centred around its colleges and city centre with some natural growth outwards but lacking the distinct quarters or boroughs of its larger neighbours. Where cities and trails in London and Birmingham for instance have afforded an opportunity to have distinct aspects of their trails and events in different parts of the city, here, a majority of this particular trail was situated in the the centre though that did afford the opportunity to discover all these beautifully painted statues, comfortably over the space of a weekend. This particular trail makes use of the wealth of museums and stores in the city centre, in contrast to other Wild in Art trails which tend to focus and use open outdoor spaces, here nearly half the statues are located in stores and shopping centres across the city. Often themed or designed around a particular brand at that location, at the Cambridge leisure park outside the city centre for example a film themed cow is positioned outside the cinema. It’s a positive collaboration between businesses and the charity and creates that sense of cohesion.

One of the more challenging, and equally frustrating aspects to a visitor when taking part in one of these trails is the issue of accessibility, especially with the use of indoor locations putting barriers to entry in place that are naturally overcome in using open spaces. Historically, this has been more of a concern and issue, visiting Birmingham on the painted Bears trail a couple of years ago and finding a number of statues situated in closed museums was a natural disappointment. Thankfully on this trail in Cambridge an obstacle the organisers and stores and cultural venues are keen to overcome placing the statues in show windows or doorways that provide clear visibility to visitors in a safe and secure manner for the business in question. There were some occasions where access would have been more of a challenge outside of traditional opening hours, smaller statues situated in the local library for instance with limited availability or one particular unique statue situated at the Museum of Zoology closed unexpectedly on the weekend of our visit. The collaboration and design input with local business does present a unique and engaging opportunity to make the trails feel more organic to the locations these are based in but equally, using indoor spaces does present almost self inflicted challenges to overcome. On balance, for the most part these are overcome in this particular event and we only had one specific animal we weren’t able to visit in person over the weekend. It’s important to recognise every business made a concerted effort to make their statue visible to the outside, when you are trying to see them all without being a disruptive presence it makes a real difference.

MOOOre Gin Please’ by Laura-Kate Chapman
Fitzbillies‘ by Various Schools
The Bovine Line’ by Phil Daniels
The Fitzwilliam Museum’ by Various Schools
May-Belle‘ by Dario Fisher

There’s a wealth of inspiration and influence on display, from the informative with designs inspired by Orwell’s literary classic Animal Farm, apt in the current political environment we find ourselves in today to Sir Isaac Newton’s work on gravity and motion. Equally, a mixture of light hearted and business focused cows and calves. One of the particular highlights of the trail was a wonderfully decorated statue outside Cambridge Railway Station titled ‘The Bovine Line‘, this cow by artist Phil Daniels draws inspiration from the views of the countryside when travelling by rail between Norwich and Cambridge. Incorporating elements of the natural world and the locomotives that travel this line. It’s a wonderful composition that uses the framework and body of the statue as a canvas. It was also fun to discover the ‘MOOOre Gin Please‘ cow designed by Laura-Kate Chapman outside the Hilton Hotel in Cambridge. Inspired by the use of botanical elements in the distillation process of a traditional gin that has grown in popularity in recent years with small craft distilleries opening across the country, it used almost a print effect in the design with the images of the different herbs and flowers created almost as a silhouette against the muted blue and green tones of the paint. The Hotel is located close to a main road and did sap the ambience in the moment somewhat but it was still fun to discover this particular statue given our recent appreciation for craft gin beverages in recent months.

One of the way’s these trails generate additional income for the charities involved is through the use of a paid app that appeals to a generation raised through exploration incorporating mobile devices over traditional paper maps and clues. These are still available at central points and makes for an enjoyable distraction for children to discover the cows and calves but the addition of the paid app was also a nice way to give a little back to the charity and organization whilst still being a relatively inexpensive and free activity to enjoy. It works in a near identical way to other trail applications, presenting a map with the general location of the cows and markers to their whereabouts then leaving you to get out and about in the outside world to discover these magnificent statues. The addition of rewards to use at local retailers was a welcome touch and appeals to the collector in us all with themed trophies and accomplishments for finding certain statues. For example, visiting both railway stations unlocked a trophy given the statues at Cambridge North were a slight journey to get too away from the main collection in the city centre. The stability of the application was a little temperamental, for paid software you’d expect a little more and it did crash or became unresponsive on more than one occasion which did temper the enjoyment and appreciation somewhat but broadly speaking, you could see the intention in the design and it performed and functioned as required for the most part. For the modest, token amount charged to access the application, you did give it the benefit of the doubt with the knowledge your money was going to a worthy cause in the area.

In Summary

Cambridge is a wonderful, historic city to visit in its own right. The Cow Trail provided a reason and purpose for visiting this picturesque location but really, our desire was to escape from London for a weekend and to see a little more of this city we have visited before but usually only the colleges and universities situated in the inner sanctum of this historic destination. During the summer months, the colleges open up their rooms for guests and visitors to stay in, for a modest fee you can spend a night or two in the heart of the city ready to get out and about in the morning looking for these marvellous creations. The statues are predominantly situated in the city centre though there are sufficient open spaces to situate the larger cows that affords a stimulating and engaging trail of exploration through the heart of many of the cities most famous landmarks and attractions. From the banks of the River Cam taking in the views of the river by boat to the historic colleges and universities, you can expect to be moved by the cities beautiful architecture and colourful creations in equal measure. The trail also moves away into the more modern day quarters of the city providing an insight into life away from academia and studies. The trail makes a great addition to a city welcoming visitors home after time spent away over the last year.

Every personal experience and interaction on this trail was welcoming and genuine. The welcome staff at the Fitzwilliam Museum gracious enough to show a visitor from London in to see the small parade of cows in the interior without a need for a ticket or reservation. Librarians guiding and directing with a smile to the small herd on the top level. There is something a little light hearted and indulgent about a trail of this nature, adding some cultural benefit in the short term but ultimately a distraction in contrast to the surrounding buildings and natural beauty of the area. But equally, these trails serve to bring visitors into the city generating income for local business and awareness of the charitable causes. By design, the trail winds through both the historic quarter of the city in addition to the modern outlets and stores. It affords a rare opportunity to break away from the usual spots you may come to visit and see a little more of the character and personality of this city a short distance and a world away from London. There were some slight issues with access, a couple of cows removed temporarily, one large cow hidden away behind closed doors. The supporting application on more than one occasion eliciting a cursed remark as you tried to scan in a code and crashing in short measure. But for the most part, this was one of the more enjoyable and memorable art trails we’ve been on in recent years. It was MOOving.

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