racks," said Piglet. "Paw-marks.” He gave a little squeak of excitement. "Oh, Pooh! Do you think it's a-a-a Woozle?”
"Do you think it's a-a-a Woozle?”
I was reminded of those lines from A A Milne's immortal Winnie-the-Pooh when paw prints in multitudinous colours first appeared on Kidlington pavements. Green, orange, blue, and pinky-purple are the colours. But what do they mean, and where do you end up if you follow them?
I set off along the orange trail, and eventually all was revealed by a smart signboard near the children's playground behind the Key Medical Practice. The pavement marks guide walkers around Zoo Trails: "Follow the footprints to explore Kidlington and Gosford,” the sign proclaims. Green marks the Monkey Trail, orange is the Lion, blue is the Elephant, and pinky-purple denotes the Big Bear and the (appropriately shorter) Bear Cub Trail. The distances vary between 1.5km (Bear Cub) and 5km (Lion) – incidentally, why are kms and not miles listed on the signboard? Like it or not, we have left the EU.
Every now and then you come across a colourful game
The trails are primarily designed to exercise children: every now and then you come across a colourful game enlivening a previously plain stretch of pavement. But the trails are good for adults too, especially during these damp winter days when a walk across the fields involves an extensive de-mudding operation afterwards. OK, you don't get to see many architectural masterpieces along the way, but it's interesting to spot how Kidlington has grown over the years, by noting the changing styles of house design.
Surprises along the way
Surprises? I never realised just how many green public spaces there are, tucked behind the houses. And it's amazing how fresh a familiar street can seem when you enter it from an unfamiliar starting point - I'll admit that I had to resort to the Ordinance Survey map on my mobile phone once or twice to get my bearings. Or perhaps I'll blame my confusions on the fact that in a few places the lack of a guiding paw print leaves you guessing: do I turn right here, or is it left? But that's all part of the fun.
There can be real-time surprises too. I didn't half jump when an invisible dog suddenly barked from behind a high fence, inches from my ear (narrow path alongside the Oxford Canal on the Big Bear Trail). One disappointment: I haven't yet met Piglet pursuing his Woozle in Kidlington.