There’s a new hare in town and, if you haven’t met him yet, he’s quite a gent.
A famous one, in fact. For Chippy’s giant hare, proud member of the 2017 Cotswold Hare Trail, is named after a globally celebrated astronomy professor who was born in Chipping Norton.
Geoffrey Furbidge is not quite the reincarnation of ground-breaking Astrophysicist Geoffrey Burbidge, but he’s reminding everyone that the stars glow brightly in our town.
Local artist Nic Vickery, who created #Geoffrey – last seen standing outside Jaffe & Neale Bookshop – wanted her entry in the Cotswold Hare Trail to shine a light on a very esteemed life.
The theme of the 2017 trail, which raises money for charity when the giant hares go to auction in September, is the culture, history and heritage of the Cotswolds.
So the famous cosmologist, who died in 2010 at the age of 84, fitted the brief perfectly.
Why was Geoffrey Burbidge so special?
Son of a local builder, Geoffrey was raised locally and attended Chippy Grammar School before heading off to Bristol University to study physics and the University of London for his PhD.
This education launched a lifetime of achievement in the field of astronomy, cosmology and astrophysics, with Burbidge being a firm critic of the big bang theory.
He co-authored one of the most seminal astrophysical papers of the last 60 years, and made ongoing, ground-breaking contributions to the field of study.
Working and studying variously at Cambridge University, Harvard, the universities of California and Chicago and several prestigious American observatories, Burbidge has been hugely influential in his profession – not bad for a boy from Chippy.
And why is Geoffrey Furbidge special too?
Every year, businesses can sponsor an artist to decorate a giant hare sculpture to go on display between March and September, before being auctioned for charity as part of the Cirencester March Hare Festival.
This year, several Chippy businesses decided to pool resources, backing Milton-Under-Wychwood animal artist Nic Vickery to bring her unique talents to bear on a ‘hare share’.
Geoffrey Furbidge is being shared between participating businesses over the next six months, and will have spells in various parts of town. Jaffe & Neale, Chipping Norton Tea Set, Gill & Co, Cotswold Newsagents, Crown & Cushion and Oats are all sponsoring the hare.
So, if you can’t find #Geoffrey, don’t be afraid to ask!
The sculpture sports an immaculate waistcoat, jacket and tie, with important astronomy papers tucked in his pocket.
Appropriately, he’s also gazing at the heavens – just like his namesake.
Take a stroll to the ancient, star-friendly Rollright Stones
Did you know that Chippy is one of the best places in Britain to star-gaze?
The Rollright Stones, just outside town, are regarded as one of Britain’s premier astronomy sites.
The BBC’s ‘Stargazing LIVE’ visited in 2011 and enjoyed superb viewing of the constellations from the deep, dark skies above the Neolithic site.
The prehistoric Rollrights have has been granted Dark Sky Discovery status, one of only 100 places in the UK where crystal skies allow clear viewing of the stars and planets – fitting, considering the Stones’ links with astronomy over the centuries.
With light pollution now preventing up to 80% of people worldwide seeing the Milky Way, according to a new report, the Rollright Stones are now protected from future development involving possible light pollution.
Download a return tour from Chippy to the Rollright Stones on the ECN mobile app. Spring and summer is a a great time to stretch your legs and investigate this fascinating, mystical area.
It’s on the challenging side, so get your walking boots on!
Will the fox catch the hare?
Make sure you don’t miss another hare sculpture on proud display in Chippy – The Rat Catcher’s Wife, now in residence at The Fox.
Created and donated by The Albion Centre, C/O Life Path Trust, ‘Phillis Humphreys’ – complete with apron – has a colourful character all her own.
She represents the wife of John Humphreys, Chippy’s notorious rat catcher, who died in 1763 and is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard. Her headstone (pictured above) can still be seen.