We’ve seen Elmers in Newcastle, and Elmers in just plain old Castle, so when Heather and I heard they were coming to Maidstone we planned to go and catch them there. We finally made it on the last day, to collect a whole herd.
Strangely the first thing we found on coming out of the train station wasn’t an elephant at all but a dinosaur! Apparently Maidstone’s coat of arms actually features a dinosaur, following the discovery of an Iguanodon there in 1834. “Iggy”, as the dinosaur is affectionately known, has now made an appearance at Maidstone East station as part of upgrade works, which explains why he was still fenced off when we found him.
Our first Elmers weren’t far away though, just over the road in fact, where the slightly dull True To Type and slightly more interesting Love The Skin You’re In stood in close proximity. From there we followed the impressive wall of the prison around to some main roads and down to the library (incidently, a couple of random rocks outside went completely unappreciated as an Antony Gormley sculpture). As it was a Sunday though it was impossible to get to see the little herd inside, and unlike other venues, there wasn’t even a poster on the door. We had to make do with the full sized version outside, but the beautiful Heart Of The Garden just about made it for it.
The next Elmer wasn’t very far either, just down the hill outside the ground of Maidstone United, the not surprisingly football themed Gallagher watched over the gates. We traced a way around the ground, and down to the pretty river, walking a bit along the bank before we realised we actually needed to be higher up, so had to go back and further round to find Lucy standing at the start of a pedestrian bridge. This was one of several Beatles themed Elmers, based on some tenuous link which means the artists just couldn’t resist—would have preferred something else myself, being so many miles from Liverpool.
Over the bridge is the attractive Whatman Park, a mix of wooded areas and more standard playground and skatepark. It had a glut of Elmers up and down its hills, Strawberry Fields just over the bridge, the amusing Raining Cats And Dogs further round, and Plot. We collected them all and then, having found everything in that part of town, retraced our steps back over the river all the way back to the station.
It was by now lunch time so we ventured into the safe bet of the local Wetherspoons to be fed and watered. Just behind the Wetherspoon is Brenchley Gardens which held two more Elmers. Spotty Dotty was, as the name suggests, covered in rainbow dots, while the pick was Just Bee Elmer, complete with giant bee.
Next to the park, Maidstone Museum was both an interesting looking building and distinctly shut. At least they had a poster detailing their little herd though. We followed the Elmer App’s mapping towards the main shopping centre, collecting the Egyptian themed Mummyphant along the way. In the shopping precinct we surprised to discover animal models that weren’t elephants, a bunch of Tigers seeming to stand, behind a little wooden fence, with no obvious reason. There was also the crossword like Not Everything Is Black And White and then, even more confusingly, another fenced area with an elephant, but not an Elmer (and some flamingoes).
One of the shops in the precinct had become an Elmer shop, complete with windows full of Where’s Elmer (found him!) and jumbo jet styled The Elephants Are Coming. Inside were more, the curiously named Elly-Do, Elly-Don’t, Elly-Dance and the wandering, not even on the app, space themed Elmer Armstrong.
We left the shop more heavily laden than we entered, with Elmer goodies galore. Down some stairs we found the beautifully decorated Nettipattam and then it was on back to the riverside for the eye hurting HMS Dazzelmer (reminiscent of Bridget Riley in its colourful stripes which seemed to shift before the eyes). We took an underpass back under a main road, where Heather managed to get her feet a bit wet in the giant puddle.
Spirits un-dampened we moved on to another of the malls which seem to dot Maidstone. This one had a little herd we could actually get to, a random horses head sculpture, and the spacetastic Far Above The World. Emerging into a seeming warren on the other side mall we found our way out onto the High Street. Perhaps what would have been useful was Elmer’s Maidstone, who was covered in a map of the town!
Further up the High Street was another Beatles themed edition, with Magical Mystery Tour and deeper into the shopping streets Never Forget (part of whose decoration was Iggy the dinosaur). There were also more of Maidstone’s animals, a gorilla and giraffe behind their little fences.
By now both our phones were dying and it turns out to be impossible to buy a reasonably priced charger and cable (I am not paying over a tenner for a USB cable!) so we were going to have to fall back on the paper map we had to find the rest of the Elmers. First up was a walk down the hill to Memory Balloons, confusingly covered in hearts, not balloons. Then a large mall in which two little herds were hiding, though it took us a while to actually find them both!
The next section of our journey took us to the most interesting part of Maidstone, and also some of the best Elmers. Eleplant did something interesting with the form, turning Elmer into a planter stood outside the Magistrates Courts (we were amused by the convenient close proximity of the Police Station). Further down, across a complicated junction, outside the old Archbishop’s Palace was Patchwork Elmer himself. Next door, at All Saint’s Church the wonderfully coloured Sunset Plains with elephants crossing the plains on its legs.
Back across the road at the Carriage Museum (housed in the Palace’s stables) was Steam Elmer, though for some reason tucked right against a wall making him difficult to view all round. The fact you could get above via the buildings external staircase offered some compensation for this.
This area of Maidstone was obviously old, and I hadn’t really appreciated its existence before our visit. There were enough “Oooh, look at that” moments that we resolved it really does deserve a return visit, when not chasing Elmers. It’s been added to the ever growing list!
Back across the road and down past the church (on a lane that doesn’t seem to have changed in centuries) brought us once more to the Medway. Before we found another Elmer we were greeted by what looked like an alien pod just waiting to hatch. Sneaking cautiously around that the next Elmer, The Gentleman Explorer was exploring an impressive ampitheatre below an old hermitage.
His closest friend was over yet another bridge spanning the river, on the way across which another sculpture loomed, a giant, slightly abstract stag looming at us. Disturbing some table tennis players to take a photo we found the dark blue, flower and bird covered Elephloral. The next Elmer in line was a bit harder to find, hidden away behind some more courts. It was worth finding The Amazing Elmerphant, an airship themed offering.
There was a final bridge across the river to cross to take us down the other side, by the tour boats and to the marvellous Beside The Seaside. Sandcastle and ice cream adorned it give a true sense of summer by the beach, and had Heather threatening to lick the ice cream.
From there it was back up the way we’d come into town again, hunting for the last couple of Elmers we were going to collect. On the way we found another little herd in a shop window, and then Flora up a hill by a church, with a delightful rainbow. The final Elmer was one Heather had been looking forward to, Pink Fizz as pink as the name suggests.
And that was it. We retreated back to the courtyard outside the Wetherspoons to await a train home, all the other Elmers beyond the reach of a day, but we’d done very well, and had a lovely time. We’d also learnt that Maidstone is probably somewhere we’d like to return to explore a bit more.