West Hallam - The Scarecrow Trail
w/e 19 July 2009
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

The Ilkeston Festival 2009 ran for a fortnight and one of its final events was the opening day of the West Hallam Well Dressing Festival. In effect this extended the Ilkeston Festival by another week as the well dressings in the neighbouring village remained in place for several days.

Anyone who has ever been to a Derbyshire Well Dressing Festival expects to see beautiful art works created by placing natural substances such as flower petals and leaves into panels of clay that are traditionally displayed as thanksgiving for the water supply. That is the essence of well dressings in its simplest form. Anyone who has visited West Hallam's Festival on opening day in recent years will also have seen street entertainment, charity stalls, Brass Bands, displays by local groups, dancing in the streets and this year's was no exception. Something new this year was an Arts Market and a Children's Fantasy Creature Workshop.
Living Scarecrows

Another new addition and being promoted by at least two living characters was a Scarecrow Trail around the village. Trail maps were on sale with prizes being offered for the return of them completed with all the scarecrows' names. Not that I am suggesting anything but two scarecrows outside the property next door were labelled "The Odd Couple"!
Religious Scarecrows

Well dressings date back as far as the Celts or even earlier and at one time were banned by the Church as water worship but they are now fully embraced and a short service and blessing at each of the wells takes place. Several of the scarecrows on the trail had a religious theme with a wedding group of a groom, vicar and bride on someone's front lawn and "The Wesleys" outside the Methodist Church. Two more groups were on the drive to St Wilfrid's Church including the one pictured that was labelled "Jesus said let the children come to me."

There were over sixty scarecrows in total scattered around the village and far too many to visit on the opening day of the Festival so we returned after the weekend to see how many we could find. Unfortunately in the intervening period a few had lost their labels and some had succumbed to mindless vandalism. "Beryl" at the Bottle Kiln had escaped unharmed by taking refuge in a shed but she had succeeded in startling the gentleman who opened the door on Monday morning by her unexpected presence.
Different Themes

Many individual householders participated in the Scarecrow Trail and erected figures outside their properties taking a variety of themes as their inspiration. Here we have "Charlie" made by a seven year old with a little help from his gran; the fairy like "Princess Eliza-Rae" and "Walker Deplank", an impressive pirate.
Children's Characters

In the centre of the village around the well dressed by the Community Pre School, children's characters were the order of the day with "Old Mother Hubbard", "Mr McGregor" and "Charlie the Clown" in close attendance.
Economic Comment

The economic situation did not escape attention either with "The Banker's Lament" and "Guy Fawkes" both making topical comments.
Robin Hood & Co

Legendary figures were also prominent in several displays like "Robin Hood and his Friends" who were keeping a watchful eye on "The Drinker" relaxing outside the White Hart.
Bob & Charlie

A legend from another era, the inimitable "Charlie Chaplin" stood guard over a finely manicured lawn whilst an icon from today with a neat play on words that substituted "Scare" for "Square" was "Sponge Bob Scare Pants" who peered over a garden wall from a border of yellow flowers.

As well as the individual scarecrows several tableaux had been created by various groups in the village. This picture shows just two - "Grace Guide" and "Betty Brownie" - of four by the West Hallam Guides. "Beth Brownie" and "Georgia Guide" are not shown but were off to the left and right respectively.
High Spots

Some people went to great heights to show their scarecrows to good effect including "Robbie" climbing the wall at the Newdigate Arms, "Telegram Sam" up a pole in The Village and "Mr Sooty, the Sweep" poking out of a chimney also in The Village. There were of course many more scarecrows around and about and I even managed to photograph the majority of them. There were of course far too many to include all of them here so hope you like my selection. I know in various parts of the country similar events are held at regular intervals but this is the first time a scarecrow trail has been organised locally. I am almost certain though that the response of the West Hallam community and the feedback from the visitors will inevitably, despite those irresponsible acts of vandalism, lead to a repeat in future years. I congratulate all those who participated this year, especially for their ingenuity and look forward to see what they come up with next time. These three scarecrows pictured certainly reached the high spots but the whole event was a high spot of the Well Dressing Festival.

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