- Going Forward at Smethwick Rolfe Street -
Our sleuthing adventure starts at Smethwick where I'm pleased to see the faded mosaic alcove on Rolfe Street's Birmingham-bound platform has been refreshed with a vibrant 'Going Forward' mural. A stroll along Smethwick High Street then bears photographic fruit thanks to the Red Cow and the Council House while we also note the William Mitchell pen factory (now a nursing home) on Bearwood Road.
- Bussy Bear -
Our first bears of the day can be found in Bearwood where the bus station is home to Bussy Bear complete with steering wheel, driver's uniform and the 82 timetable. Just across in Lightwoods Park we meet Bear-trix Blocker all geared up for a skateboard session; tattoos, a nose ring and a yellow crash helmet are among the distinctive elements of this design.
- Alice -
Lightwoods Park is currently undergoing a £5.2 million restoration project overseen by Sandwell Council, and it's great to see the historic fabric of the park being given some attention. A major aspect of the scheme is the renovation of Lightwoods House after years of decay and neglect; the building is already looking much improved and is the base for a group of bear cubs peeping out from the ground floor windows. One such cub is Alice, a nurse who wears blue spectacles, a name badge and a red cross cap.
- Harby -
Tracking down our next target involves a wander through Warley Woods where Bentley the Bearwood Bear waits to greet us over by the drinks fountain. We have only just started to admire Bentley's decorative detail (including a depiction of Thimblemill Library) when the heavens open and a thundery shower sends us scampering for shelter. Thankfully the 48 bus runs to schedule and the deluge has stopped by the time we reach Harborne, meaning we can account for Harby on the High Street without risking a further drenching.
- Queen Elizabeth Hospital -
Typically of an English summer, the rain burst is followed by bright sunshine as we proceed along Metchley Lane towards the hospital complex. A bear called India is positioned outside the entrance to Birmingham Women's Hospital while the striking architecture of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital also needs to be surveyed. The site has been transformed into a world class state-of-the-art medical facility that hosts the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine and provides specialist care for wounded military personnel evacuated from overseas.
- Mr B meets Buzz -
From the hospital it is but a short walk to the University of Birmingham's Edgbaston Campus, passing University railway station along the way. Three bears require detection here - Bee Kind (on the station plaza), Buzz (a honeycomb theme outside the University's new library) and Rosie (brown with a bouquet at the Bramall Music Building). I have fond memories of the three years when I was a University of Birmingham student so it's nice to be back, looking up at the Old Joe clock tower once more as the bells bong for 2 o'clock.
- Window Shopping at the Bull Ring -
With a bit of spare time at our disposal we call into the Barber Institute of Fine Arts for a more cerebral artistic experience. The exhibits include Monet's Water Lily Pond along with works by Canaletto, Tintoretto, Turner and Degas plus portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the gallery as a whole was a pleasure to explore. A ride on the 63 bus then connects us to Birmingham's Bull Ring for a spot of Window Shopping as our bear sequence resumes.
- Florence Nightin'owl -
Birmingham City Centre has the highest concentration of bears so among the others we seek are Bhangra Bear (with drum and moustache), Vincent the Biploar Bear (partially inspired by the artist Van Gogh) and Dr Bear Brawn (in medical scrubs with stethoscope and yellow-rimmed spectacles). Dr Brawn is on duty outside Birmingham Children's Hospital where he is joined by Florence Nightin'owl, a tribute to the nursing profession that has remained on display from The Big Hoot event of 2015.
- Captain Blue Bear -
We round off this particular bear hunt at Colmore Square by making the acquaintance of Get Your Bearings (black design containing road markings) and Birminghamshire (featuring a whimsical rolling landscape) although it is Captain Blue Bear who steals the show with his eyepatch, cutlass and treasure map. That's probably enough fun for one day - the Big Sleuth event runs through until Sunday 17th September so I should yet get chance for more sculpture shenanigans before the bears are auctioned off for charity.