Artist relying on strangers' kindness as he travels 300 miles to COP26 with polar bear sculpture

A Shropshire artist's climate pilgrimage is well under way as he relies on the kindness of strangers to accompany him and his 10ft polar bear sculpture to Glasgow.

Bamber, centre, with friends and his bear
Bamber, centre, with friends and his bear

Artist Bamber Hawes, from Bishop's Castle, is about a quarter of the way through his climate crisis pilgrimage from south Shropshire to Scotland to attend the UN's COP26 climate change talks on October 31.

What makes his journey so unique is the fact he is accompanied on his pilgrimage by Clarion, a 10ft polar bear Bamber made from thin bamboo poles, willow withies and many layers of heavy duty tissue paper bonded together with waterproof PVA.

Bamber Hawes with Clarion the Bear

While Bamber and Clarion complete the more than 300-mile journey, he is also joined along the way by friends, supporters and strangers – all as passionate as he is about the action needed to be taken regarding the climate crisis.

"It's wonderful and bizarre," he said about the adventure he began on Sunday when he left Bishop's Castle.

Setting off in Bishop's Castle

"I am going the whole journey with the bear. From the first day in Bishop's Castle I had a group of people who came to Shrewsbury with me, the next day it was a different group.

"So I am meeting lots of weird and wonderful people and getting to talk to them.

Along the river in Shrewsbury

"The other day we were walking and an elderly Indian lady joined us. We got talking and it turned out she had walked with Gandhi on his protest marches for four months.

"I felt honoured to have a connection between my mission and that historic moment."

Longden to Wem

Bamber is relying upon the kindness of strangers to put him up for the night after each day's walk – and to find a safe, dry spot for Clarion to rest.

On Thursday night, he had stopped just south of Rainhill, in Merseyside near Widnes, and nearly had nowhere to stay until one person offered him help.

"Most nights we have organised a bed for me and for the bear," he explained.

Reaching Wem

"Most nights we have organised a bed for me and for the bear," he explained.

"Tonight we were dashing around trying to figure out where we would stay as it was the first night we couldn't figure it out. Then a lovely woman came up to me, and tried to offer me some money, and I said do you know anywhere I can stay the night.

In the centre of Whitchurch

"She said well you can come back with me to my house. So she invited me in – the bear's in the garden – I met her husband, she gave me supper and is looking after me."

From Widnes, Bamber and Clarion will head to Lancaster, then go through the Lake District, to reach Carlisle and then up to Glasgow.

Leaving Kingsley

On day five, Bamber had completed 86 miles of the 306-mile journey – meaning he is more than a quarter of the way through.

Crossing the bridge at Runcorn

He is determined to reach Glasgow, and has been training for the past year, walking miles and miles each week to prepare himself.

Stopping outside the aptly named The Bears Paw

"I have been training for this every week and have already walked the equivalent journey to Glasgow and nearly back again during the past year," he said. "So I am quite fit for a 60-year-old and I have been training for it.

Clarion tucked up in bed for the night

"It's long days – watching out for traffic, walking about 14 miles a day and organising accommodation along the way. We are on a mission, really.

"It's lovely, I was staying at someone's house last night and I didn't have any people organised at all to join me on the day's walk and I would have to pull the bear by myself.

Clarion the Polar Bear by Bamber Hawes. Picture: Andrew Fusek Peters

"The man got home from work and spent four or five hours calling up friends, Extinction Rebellion members and anyone who could help me. We went past his daughter's school and the children went mad and couldn't believe the polar bear."

He added: "If any readers know of any friends or family along the route from here to Glasgow who might want to join me for a day or half a day's walk, or wouldn't mind putting me up for the night, they can get in touch."

Visit www.clarionthebear.fish to find out all the details about Bamber's journey, updates and contact details.

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