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Cotswold Hare Trail: The Cotswolds reunited by hares

PUBLISHED: 10:55 23 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:55 23 February 2017

Florence Beetlestone, director of The Cotswold Hare Trail with artist Linda Jane Smith and Wulfstan the Hawkesbury Hare

Florence Beetlestone, director of The Cotswold Hare Trail with artist Linda Jane Smith and Wulfstan the Hawkesbury Hare

© Thousand Word Media

Get hare-ing! From March 25, the Cotswolds will be teeming with 80 five foot-hare sculptures for visitors to spot throughout the region

March 25 sees the start of the first ever Cotswold Hare Trail. For six months until September 10 the Cotswolds will abound with 80 five-foot hare sculptures, sponsored by local businesses and decorated by a mix of professional, amateur and celebrity artists. This unique trail will cover over 20 towns and villages, ranging from Chipping Sodbury in the south to Broadway in the North, to Woodstock in the East and Cheltenham in the West. Each town and village taking part will have at least one large hare putting them firmly on the Trail. The signed up towns will then be able to put on linked hare themed events and to display the coveted leverets (small 18” high) hares.

“It’s just taken off,” says Festival Director, Florence Beetlestone, “It’s as if the hares have a life of their own and, having seen Cirencester, they want to explore further!” This festival has sprung out of the highly successful, award-winning Cirencester March Hare Festival which Florence has run since 2013. This proved to be such a magnet for tourists and locals alike drawing in tens of thousands of ‘harers’ all keen to spot the latest one, that other Cotswold towns were delighted to take part this year.

The theme for the trail is ‘celebrating the culture, history and heritage of the Cotswolds’ and promises to have a full range of spectacular designs. The hares will go to auction in October with the net profits going to charity. This year the main charity will be National Star, but the Cotswold Hare Trail will also support local historical projects in Cotswold towns such as some of its museums. “There are many wonderful collections in the Cotswolds running on a shoestring that will benefit enormously from even a small injection of funds,” pointed out Florence.

Already pre-launch events are hotting up. St Wulfstan’s Day (January 19) was celebrated by the launch of the St Wulfstan hare in Hawkesbury Upton; March 9 will celebrate the arrival of all the hares at the Burford Garden Centre with a ticketed preview; and March 22 will launch the Woodstock hares with Joey, the life-sized War Horse puppet horse unveiling a very special War Horse hare in the afternoon. All the hares will be in place from March 25 for the public to begin their ‘haring’.

Participants are set the task to find every hare and leveret this year and to upload their selfies to the Festival’s social media sites. Throughout the six months there will be prize winning activities and further events. Watch out for launches in your town. There may even be travelling hares and surprize new hares from time to time so make sure to follow the website for details.

Bringing public art into people’s lives is one of the Festival’s key aims. “The Cotswolds are full of creative people and we are delighted to be able to showcase their work in this way,” says Florence. “We are starting a programme with schools which will be ongoing so that young people are fully engaged. I’ve spent my life trying to encourage creativity so this is just another aspect of it.”

The Cotswold Hare Trail is a fun, free, family friendly event providing a wonderful opportunity for residents and tourists to explore hidden corners of Cotswold towns and delightful, but often little known villages off the beaten track. Harers are encouraged to walk, cycle and use public transport to reach the hare destinations. As the Trail covers such a wide geographical area people are encouraged to follow the trail section by section and to take advantage of the festival’s designated hospitality partners to stay for weekends and longer breaks.

If you would like to get involved or find out more visit www.cirencestermarchharefestival.org.uk.

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