Can anyone help me get to the bottom of this? I’ve a feeling this one might be of interest to Mark Lorenzo, of Tamworth Time Hikes. I know it’s not Brownhills, but it’s been troubling me for a few of years now. Mark last week published a fascinating post about the Motte & Bailey remains at Seckington, near Tamworth, but there’s an altogether more intriguing oddity lurking nearby that I’d really, really like to get to the bottom of…
I first spotted it way back in the autumn of 2007, on one of my favourite cycling routes. On Hangman’s Lane, Just south of the tiny hamlet in open countryside, a patchy hedge runs beside a normal agricultural field. The lane is straight, open and visibility is clear. In a nondescript gap, where the hedge gives way to wire and post fence, there is an odd collection of soft toys, firmly attached to the wire mesh.
When I first saw them, the fluffy characters were weathered and dirty, and had obviously already been there for some time. They had been attached to the fence carefully, with wire, and often round the character’s neck. The spacing was considered and this had clearly taken time to do. The toys looked like they had been fairly new when attached, and would have cost a considerable sum. There were no flowers or any other items nearby, no signs of an accident, and no possible explanations for their presence.
I really couldn’t explain why, but the whole thing left me feeling quite unnerved and unsettled. It troubled me that this was such a deliberate, careful enterprise. I wondered (and still do) if it was some kind of shrine, but there’s no sign of an accident there. It certainly doesn’t seem like a shrine. Further to the south for a while in 2007, there was a smaller collection of soft toys tied to the gate of a roadside pumping station on Main Road, between Shuttington and Newton Regis, about a mile away. They were smaller, and if I recall correctly, all white in colour. I lost the photograph I took of those, and they disappeared around Christmas in 2007.
The assemblage remained until some time in 2008, whence they were all removed. Absent for a while, a new and larger collection of figures appeared in the spring of 2009. These too, were clearly new, bought for the purpose, again for what must have been a considerable sum.
Last weekend I passed the spot again, and the toys remained. There had been some additions, including the odd reappearance of Daffy Duck from the original collection, but essentially, the collection was the same, just weathered and decaying. The grass on the verge in front is flattened by people walking over to take a look. People clearly show respect and never seem to tamper with or remove the toys.
All I really want to know is what is this being done for? Is it a shrine, and if so who to? Is it a joke? It feels peculiarly intrusive to even ask. Like the inscription on the bench near Walsall’s Church Hill Memorial Gardens, it intimates sadness, a story untold. I really have no idea.
Can anyone help at all?