A star-studded line-up of narrators is one of the highlights of a relaunched nature trail in Coulsdon which also boasts a 64-page full colour booklet.
Joanna Lumley, Benjamin Zephaniah, Noddy Holder, Martin Jarvis, Miriam Margolyes, Gyles Brandreth, Tony Robinson and Richard O’Brien are just some of the celebrities who have volunteered their time to narrate sections of the trail which can be accessed by smartphones using QR codes on 29 marker posts.
Actor Martin Jarvis knows the area well having grown up in South Norwood then South Croydon. He said, “Doing the narration stirred up so many nice memories of my childhood. We used to go on rambles around the Downs but I wasn’t at all educated about it as this trail will help teach everybody. I’ve done two separate narrations and one about a particular pond is my favourite because it reminds me of a character I later became associated with – William in the Just William stories who is very keen on ponds.”
The relaunched trail and booklet were organised by the Friends of Farthing Downs and Happy Valley and made possible by a grant from the City of London Corporation and the energy and enthusiasm of Croydon Council’s countryside warden, Dominic North, who spent his spare time contacting celebrities, editing the material, then adding suitable soundscapes as backdrops to their voices.
He said, “Originally I was going to narrate the whole thing but when I put my voice on tape I thought people would get bored! So I came up with the plan to contact well-known people and I must have written to 150 of them including personal heroes like Bob Dylan! I’ve ended up with one celebrity each doing a couple of posts and I have to say I don’t know of another nature trail quite like this where so many famous people have been involved.”
As well as enjoying the distinguished voices, visitors to the trail will also be able to use the QR codes to access a library of information relating to that particular location.
“This is fantastic work from Dominic and the Friends group and I can’t wait to hear this host of A-listers guide me through Happy Valley and Farthing Downs while browsing through the beautiful-looking booklet. Walking the whole trail takes about three hours so it’s also an excellent way to encourage people to get active and explore some of our great outdoors.
“The whole project is a fine example of cross-partnership working between Croydon, the City of London Corporation and the Friends and I hope these imaginative resources bring a whole new audience to our treasured area”
Councillor Oliver Lewis, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport
Roughly half of the marker posts can be found in Happy Valley (owned by Croydon Council) and half in Farthing Downs (owned by the City of London Corporation). These areas, together with adjacent open spaces at Coulsdon Common, Kenley and Riddlesdown, form part of a newly designated South London Downs National Nature Reserve – only the third National Nature Reserve in London.
Graham Lomas, chair of the Friends of Farthing Downs and Happy Valley said, “I hope these initiatives will encourage more people to visit these much-loved, historic open spaces. What Dominic has achieved in his audio-trail is not just delightful but groundbreaking and we also plan to add translations so visitors will be able to hear everything the celebrities have said in their own language.
“My other hope is that more schoolchildren and college students will now engage with the Downs and Happy Valley and I would love to see schools in the area that are studying biology use the material that we’ve provided.”
The audio-trail is now live and you can access it through the link http://goo.gl/GAeAZk which also features a text version of the trail.