If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise…
But if you go down to Southampton, you’re in for an even bigger one. Because it’s one of two cities chosen to host the Hampshire Hare Trail.
A spectacular public art event is leaping into action this summer. Streets, gardens and public spaces are becoming home to a collection of magnificent hares. Each giant sculpture has been individually designed and, alongside the larger-than-life hares, you’ll also spot lots of cute and colourful leverets.
The trail is free and runs until the 29th of August.
What’s it All In Aid Of ?
As well as bringing some country cheer to city spaces, and creating a free and fun art trail for all, the Hampshire Hares are raising money for an incredibly good cause: The Murray Parish Trust.
The Murray Parish Trust was founded by Sarah Parish and James Murray. They tragically lost their first daughter, Ella-Jayne, to a congenital heart defect. In 2014, they established TMPT which is dedicated to the advancement of paediatric emergency medicine across the South of England.
To date the Trust has raised almost £5 million in partnership with Southampton hospital, including funding for a a Specialist Intensive Care children’s bed and a Specialist Helicopter Gurney to transport critically ill infants via Air Ambulance.
As well as raising awareness for the charity, the hares will be auctioned after a farewell- or should that be ‘Hare-well’?- event to raise funds for The Murray Parish Trust.
The Hampshire Hares
Each hare has been individually designed by an artist and sponsored by a local business. Some of the artists are Hampshire based, others from further afield. Some already have an established creative career, some are just starting out.
The range of designs and influences is huge, from Dr Who inspired designs to leverets with the cutest strawberry nose. Hockley Hare by Catherine Ruth Church is my favourite spot to date; I love anything with a bit of gold and pink, and this hare looks very handsome against the stone backdrop of the old city gates.
Alongside the full size hares, there are lots of leverets. Designed by local school children and community groups, each one is thoughtful and unique. Also an interesting peek into what children have on their minds today. I spotted lots of symbols of hope and friendship, plenty of natural world inspiration and references to the Ukraine.
Southampton is one of a pair of cities hosting this big art event, the other being Winchester. With this in mind, one of the hares has been designed as a nod to both.
‘Rusty’ is depicted wearing old ships chains and an anchor as a nod to Southampton and its rich Naval heritage. Winchester is reflected with the famous Round table depicted in the eyes and Excalibur in the ears.
A detailed design that pays homage to two different, but equally brilliant, cities.
The Hampshire Hare Gin
Yes, it keeps on getting better. There’s also gin. A special, small batch Hampshire Hare gin.
The micro batch gin has been created by the gin lovers at the Firsty Foal, in collaboration with a local distillery. The gin has an organic base spirit- meaning no artificial nasties- and includes botanicals like lemon, mint a fresh hedgerow berries.
As well as sounding delightful (My bottle is en route. I’ll research thoroughly and report back), the Hampshire Hare gin is beautifully branded. Just look at the folksy, floral art on the bottle. I have all the heart eyes.
If you fancy a taste without splashing out on a full bottle, a taster box is also available here.
A percentage of profits from all the Hampshire Hare Gin sales will go directly to The Murray Parish Trust. That’s worth raising a glass to, isn’t it?
The Useful-to-Know Stuff
The Hampshire Hares Art Trail runs across Southampton and Winchester from 16th June- 29th August.
There are printed maps of each trail available from various locations- find details here
If you prefer, there is also an app available for £1.79, with net proceeds going to The Murray Parish Trust. The app includes the chance to win a prize from a sponsor and other features including the ability to map how far you’ve walked whilst hare spotting.
Hares of Hampshire has been created by Wild in Art, who produce public art events up and down the country. They’ve hares in Hampshire, Giraffes in Edinburgh and are bringing Snowdogs to Swindon in 2023. Click this link to see if they have any events planned near you.