If you go into the woods today you are sure of a big surprise. If you had ventured in yesterday it might have scared the stuffing out of you.
Blackpool Civic Trust please take note. Before hoisting bodies high in trees, upon pill boxes, across bushes, loitering by paths and generally littering a woodland walk much frequented by nature lovers and dog walkers ... please put a sign up alerting all to the start of the trust’s annual scarecrow festival.
The life-size figures of wicker men, women, children and even scare-robots, look a tad macabre when first set out.
Even die hard golfers, accustomed to birdies and sudden death play-offs, did a double take at hearing cries of “where shall we put the Pope?” from the fringes of their municipal golf course.
Most of the scarecrows arrive in bin bags. By night the bin bags will be back - clad around heads. It looks like the set of a Dr Who adventure. Or an execution squad for scarecrows...
Even the lads from HMP Kirkham, there to help out with some heavy duty stringing up, posed with a police-themed scarecrow created by some wag.
The location’s lovely, and that’s part of the festival’s policy, to encourage more of us to make the most of Salisbury Woodland – a hidden gem of greenery.
For those who don’t know where this verdant corner is, it’s just opposite Stanley Park, off Woodside Drive leading to Blackpool Zoo.
There are handy two hour parking spots – and the zoo’s pay and display nearby. Blackpool Transport’s laid on an extra stop, closer to the action, for its Resort Hopper service.
It’s already a good spot for a walk - or a quest to “count the ducks”, the latest gambit to get children involved this year, with small plastic ducks (as well as the real thing and several herons) scattered along the path.
New Civic Trust chairman Joan Humble says the festival was one of her highlights last year. “It was lovely to hear the children screeching with excitement as they explored the route last year,” she recalls.
Admission is free again this year - with a 50p quiz for the kids and cake and refreshments at Scarecrow Central (the pillbox) for the rest of us.
It’s the perfect introduction to Civic Week events - and for the trust’s big civic “street party” at the Olympia, Winter Gardens, next weekend, under cover to avoid the ‘will it-won’t it’ rain agonising of last year. There’s also a Totally Transport event at Solaris next day (Sunday, June 23).
But the scarecrow festival is fun for all the family, with woodland the setting of the three day festival, which starts today and runs from 10am to 6pm daily.
Setting up is part of the fun. Mini buses and cars arrive to deposit scarecrows from 17 primary schools and countless other groups taking part. Organiser Betty Bradford is delighted with the response. “It’s only the second festival and we’ve had a great response,” she admits. “It started in such a small way. Now look at it.”
And if two’s company, 200’s a scarecrowd.
One of the youngest exhibitors Keiran Tait, nine, of Highfurlong School, is there with pals to see the school’s scarecrow set up. And it’s a proper crow too, bright yellow beak, black bin bag wings fluttering.
Kieran’s favourite part? “The string legs.”
They are actually two halves of the skipping rope now lost to support assistant Linda North’s daughter. (You are so busted, Mrs North!)
St Kentigern’s Primary’s “Pope” takes pride of place alongside Help for Heroes.
There’s a Boggart and white tiger courtesy of Aspired Futures, a support charity for children aged two to 16, as part of a literacy project.
It was set up by volunteers after being made redundant by HomeStart.
Coun Debbie Coleman, one of the festival’s judges,is helping assemble Busy Bees Nursery’s scarecrow, from the Salvation Army-based nursery run for 25 years by Carol Webb who’s looked after Debbie’s children. “I’ll have to declare an interest in this one,” Debbie admits.
Eco-conscious Boundary Primary are out to fend off rivals Hawes Side Academy for a truly “green” scarecrow display made from recycled materials.
Boundary’s got five scarecrows promoting “grow as we grow”. Hawes Side has created Queen Hic-toria from plastic bottles and bin bags. She looks most amused.
And Shaun Kellett, learning mentor at Moor Park Primary, stands in for the “head” of the scare-robot - while staff member Emma Pook fixes it into position.
It’s surreal, it’s fun, it’s free, and frankly it looks here to stay.
As one of the exhibitors puts it: “You can stuff other scarecrow festivals - Blackpool’s is the best.”