Mr Monkey heard that there was going to be collection of giant decorated frogs scattered around Stockport. He's been a fan of temporary displays of brightly painted creatures (or benches) livening up town since the Manchester Cow Parade in 2004, and Stockport is just down the road from his house, so he decided to scamper down the A6 to find out what these frogs were doing.
Mr Monkey had downloaded a map from the Stockport's Giant Leap website before leaving home, but when it was printed out it was a little difficult to read some of the street names so he popped in to the tourist information office in the market place and picked up a bigger and better properly printed Frog-tastic Guide.
Mr Monkey studied the guide for a bit, ignored the games because they'd be better at home, and planned a route to visit all 19 frogs. In a change from his usual policy, he decided that he'd see them in numerical order (of course it didn't work out quite like that, because Mr Rik forgot that not all of Stockport is at the same height above sea level).
He left the market place and set off to the town hall to see the first frog. This meant he had to walk past several frogs, but he kept his eyes shut as he went past them.
Artist: Nick Lowndes
Frog number one is in the small green area at the junction of Edward Street and the A6.
Nexiphibian is decorated to remind everyone of the printed circuit boards made by its sponsors. Mr Monkey reckons this frog is wearing the tidiest circuit boards he's ever seen.
While he was looking at the frog, Mr Monkey realised that he would also be able to find out why there's a statue of a man with a paddle and no canoe to distract monkeys riding home on the 192 bus. He inspected the statue and found out that it's James Conway, a milkman from Stockport who joined the Royal Marines and took part in Operation Frankton during WW2.
This involved 10 men being dropped from a submarine in the Gironde estuary and paddling canoes sixty miles upriver to plant limpet mines on German ships in the port of Bordeaux. The mission was a success, but of the ten men involved two died of hypothermia, two escaped back to Britain, and six were captured, tortured and executed. Twenty year old James was one of the six captured.
Frog number two is in the Stockport Exchange plaza, near the upper entrance to Stockport station.
Mr Monkey admired the simplicity of the frog's hat, its only decoration the unicorn that appears on everything from Robinson's Brewery. He was intrigued by the plants covering its skin, which are stylised versions of the Goldings hops used in Robinson's Unicorn beer. When he got home, Mr Monkey checked with the British Hop Association to see if they were realistic.
The bottle on the plinth is a special Stockport gin created to go with the Stockport Frogs; it is not part of Golding and was taken away by the ITV Look North camera crew that Mr Monkey kept meeting as he wandered around looking at frogs.
You can see the report that aired on the evening of July 5th, and includes an explanation of why there are frogs in Stockport at the ITV website. Mr Rik appears a couple of times which is slightly unfortunate.
Artist: Louise Barson
Sponsor: Amshire IT Solutions
Frog number three is outside the lower entrance to Stockport station.
While Mr Monkey admired the the attempt to mix a crown and a top hat, he was momentarily perplexed by the way Kermit was covered in strings of zeroes and ones, before he realised it was all American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) values displayed in binary, and very appropriate for a frog sponsored by an IT company.
Mr Monkey considered converting all the binary numbers into decimal, and comparing them with a table of ASCII values but he hadn't got such a table with him and there were an awful lot of binary numbers to be converted, so he settled for reading the little translations next to each word. That was a lot easier.
There's a full listing of ASCII at ASCII Code.com.
KermIT's decoration includes an extract from Frog Prince by Linda Ori. The whole poem can be read at the Citateapedia website.
Artist: Ian Dawber
Sponsor: Holiday Inn Express
Frog number four is outside the Holiday Inn Express near Stockport station.
Mr Monkey was a little worried about Cornelius, as he seemed to have wandered out of his hotel in his pyjamas and was wearing a large cotton reel instead of a hat, and he can hardly keep his eyes open. In Mr Monkey's experience, this is usually the result of a fire alarm going off for no reason (apart from that one time when someone in the hotel kitchen set a frying pan on fire and Mr Monkey's humans had to eat breakfast in the street).
Artist: Douglas Hutton
Sponsor: Orbit Developments
Frog number five is at the junction of Heaton Lane and the A6, near the multi-storey carpark.
Prince Regent looked rather regal to Mr Monkey, with a crown that's pretty impressive considering that it's based on a top hat. Mr Monkey was impressed with the Tudor ruff, but not so taken with the checkered breeches.
The building in the background (which includes the Travelodge) is Regent House and is probably named after the frog, because it's where he lives.
Artist: Helen Watts
Sponsor: Spring & Co
Frog number six is in Mersey Square, outside 526Jeanswear.
Mr Monkey quickly spotted that Ferdinand was all in black and white, and decided that the decoration reminded him of the black and white timbering of many Tudor houses, and of the architecture of the mid-nineteenth century Black-and-white Revival movement. There are even leaded windows in the frog's waistcoat, though Mr Monkey couldn't see through them.
Artist: Caroline Dowsett
Frog number seven is in Mersey Square, near the Card Factory.
The bright and energetic colours of Robert's skin apparently reflect the brightness and energy of CDL. Mr Monkey has never imagined any connection between energy, brightness and insurance services but it turns out that CDL provide innovative software for insurance companies. That did sound more interesting to Mr Monkey than just selling insurance.
Artist: Annette Cobley
Frog number eight is on the A6, near the 192 bus stop.
Mr Monkey really liked BUSter, the 192 bus frog, and not just because the 192 is his favourite and most used bus route. BUSter has got the right colour scheme, with all the right lights so it'd be totally legal (if a little impractical) to ride home on it.
One side of BUSter shows a commuter using the free WiFi on the way to work, very young frogs (tadpoles, really) are sat at the back of the bus, and on the other side Mr Monkey found the small golden frog that someone is going to at the end of the frog display.
Mr Monkey wondered why the driver was red, but later found out that it's the Strawberry Fields recording studio frog having a go at bus driving; this may be a reference to Dave Hulston's album Willow and the 192, which is apparently full of songs inspired by the 192.
Artist: Lindsay Anderson & Debbie Hancock
Sponsor: Merseyway Shopping Centre
Frog number nine is just inside the Mersey Square entrance to the the Merseyway Shopping Centre.
The River Mersey is now generally accepted to start where the Goyt and the Tame meet in central Stockport. For centuries Stopfordians showed their love of the Mersey by throwing their rubbish into it, especially when Stockport had an extensive hatting industry. In 1938 they noticed that the river was rather unpleasant so they covered 1600 feet of the river with a road. In 1965 someone decided that the river was still too much in the way, and in 1967 the Merseyway Shopping Centre was built on top of the road and the river. Attempts to improve the Mersey started in 1985, and in 2009 the water was as pure as it had been before the Industrial Revolution.
Mrs Mersey - the Hoppy Shopper celebrates the birth of the River Mersey in Stockport, and that frogs - and other water loving creatures and plants - can again thrive in its water. Mr Monkey enjoyed finding frogs at different stages in their life cycle, and admiring the other river life.
The Mersey used to start at the meeting of the Goyt and the Etherow in Compstall, but apparently doesn't anymore.
Artist: Kirsty Brown
Sponsor: Girlguiding Stockport
Frog number ten is on the Prince's Street side of Suffragette Square.
This Little Guiding Frog of Mine has written the Brownie/Guide law on the front of her hat, to remind passers-by what Girl Guiding is about. The rest of her body is decorated with little rainbows, tents, flowers and stars, which Mr Monkey assumes must be popular with girl guides.
Artist: St Thomas' Primary School
Sponsor: The Light Cinema
Frog number eleven is outside the Berretto Lounge at Redrock on Bridgefield Street.
Sir Lovealot is the first frog with a mustache that Mr Monkey has ever seen. When Mr Monkey first saw him he was sporting a monocle as well, but that's gone now, either swept away by weather or borrowed by a passing reveller.
Apparently a lot of schoolchildren have touched Sir Lovealot, and they all had paint covered hands. According to the writing on the top and brim of his hat, he has "A hat full of love for everyone" though you have to be quite tall to find that out.
Artist: Emma Yates & Beth Sclambarella
Sponsor: BASF - we create chemistry
Frog number twelve is at the junction of Warren Street and Great Underbank, near the large hole that gives a view of the Mersey passing under the shopping centre.
Mr Monkey was a little worried when he noticed that Chemit conducting some kind of chemical experiment inside his hat, he assumed BASF knew what the frog was doing. Mr Monkey knows what hats are for, and they are not for keeping liquids in.
Mr Monkey could see that Chemit was wearing a jacket made out of patches bearing symbols from the periodic table, but they'd been stitched together in the wrong order. He believes the sole reason that the elements aren't in the right order is so they can put 'FrOg' and 'CuTe' on Chemit's back.
There's an excellent interactive periodic table at the Royal Society of Chemistry website. It's full of information about each element and has a lot of videos from Nottingham University showing elements 'reacting' (which is apparently the scientific term for catching fire or exploding while men in coats laugh).
Sponsor: Stockport College
Frog number thirteen is outside Costa Coffee at the entrance to the Peel Centre.
Mr Monkey wondered if Stockport College could have come up with a more interesting design than simply painting Midas gold all over, but decided that everyone there was probably spending all their time learning or teaching.
Anyway, Midas shows everyone what the basic frog statue design looks like, so that's something.
Artist: Prospect Vale Primary School
Sponsor: Totally Stockport
Frog number fourteen is at the junction of Little Underbank, Lower Hillgate, and the bottom of Mealhouse Brow.
Sir Norman Frogster is in Stockport to honour Sir Norman Foster, who was born in Reddish and raised in Levenshulme before going off into the world to design things like London's Millenium Bridge, the HSBC Building in Hong Kong, and Apple Park in California.
He is decorated with panels featuring the triangular glasswork of 30 St Mary Axe, and with a pair of dragons that Mr Monkey doesn't quite understand the point of but likes anyway.
Sir Norman Frogster seems to be the most easily missed of Stockport's frogs, and Mr Monkey thinks he has chosen an odd place to keep an eye on Stockport's iconic architecture.
Artist: Kate O'Brien
Sponsor: Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council
Frog number fifteen is in the Market Place, between the Market Hall and the Produce Hall.
It was obvious to Mr Monkey that This Little Froggy Went to Market had chosen exactly the right place to go to market as he's covered in pictures of the market buildings.
Stockport was given a Royal Charter to hold a market in 1260, and probably had a market before then anyway. Some derivations of the name claim Stockport is Anglo-Saxon for 'market in a hamlet', while others (including Stockport Council) say it meant 'castle in a wood'.
The Market Hall that is the centre of today's market was built in 1861 for £4423 and was originally just a very big canopy, known as the Glass Umbrella. The glass walls that keep the rain out and make shopping comfortable were added between 1898 and 1900.
Artist: Plunge Creations
Sponsor: Marketing Stockport
Frog number sixteen is outside the Natwest Bank on Great Underbank.
Strawberry Fields is standing outside Underbank Hall in honour of the Strawberry Fields recording studio on Waterloo Road. This frog doesn't look much like a recording technician, but it is an excellent strawberry and gets Mr Monkey's admiration for using its hat as a stalk.
The Strawberry Fields recording studio was founded in 1968 and closed in 1993 Waterloo Road. The first four albums by 10cc were produced there, as was Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division.
Artist: Caroline Daly
Frog number seventeen is on Chestergate, opposite the Air Raid Shelters.
Fanatical Frog is covered in stylized bits of Stopfordian architecture. Mr Monkey was fairly sure he recognized the viaduct, the Hat Works' chimney, the Market Hall, and a lot of the Art-Deco features of the Plaza Cinema.
The different colours of the Fanatical Frog's skin reminded Mr Monkey of the changing lights that light up the inside of the Plaza when the Compton organ is being played, and he decided to believe that it was deliberate.
Artist: Toubie Jack
Sponsor: Orbit Developments
Frog number eighteen is beside the apse of Saint Peter's Church in Peter Square, near the 1888 dedication stone and the Heritage Trail plaque.
Sir Hopsalot's plaque claims that he's been appearing in a sequel to Wind in the Willows, which Mr Monkey thinks should mean that he is a toad, even though he clearly is same as all the other frogs.
Anyway, Sir Hopsalot is obviously a dapper aristocrat about town, though his choice of hat colour is rather eccentric.
Artist: Douglas Hutton
Sponsor: C&C Insurance Brokers
Frog number nineteen is near the fountains in St. Peters Square.
Edgeleap gets his name from Edgeley, the home of Stockport County FC. They're sometimes known as the Hatters, because of Stockport's history of hatmaking, which also explains the hat Edgeleap. The Hatters of Stockport should not be mistaken for the Luton Town Hatters who, being founded in 1885 (two years after Stockport County) should have thought of a nickname that hadn't already been chosen.
Mr Monkey was impressed with the plethora of landmarks adorning Edgeleap, and was especially pleased with having historical (steam train, smoking factory chimneys, crowded housing) and modern (Pendolino train, the Hat Museum, Edgeley Park stadium, the Pyramid) views of the area near the viaduct on either side of the frog.
When Mr Monkey wandered past Edgeleap a few weeks after his first visit, he found that someone or something had moved the frog through 90° or so and had his back to the church instead of the fountain.
When he'd seen his nineteenth frog, Mr Monkey scampered back home for a banana and a rest.
He turned his Frog-tastic Guide over and had a go at the dot to dot (which, to Mr Monkey's total lack of surprise, turned out to be a frog) and the wordsearch.
He also looked at all the letters he'd collected from the frog's name plaques and arranged to form a phrase he'd come to learn over the day. When he'd worked out what it was, he went to the Stockport's Giant Leap website to enter his name in the draw for a miniature golden frog.
In the middle of August Mr Monkey found out that some 'bonus' frogs where being added to the trail of frogs, though they weren't being added to the trail map or being properly listed on the website. Mr Monkey has no idea why these frogs were installed later than the others, but there was probably a reason. The best excuse he can think of is that the significant phrase that people had to find to have a chance of winning the golden frog only had 19 letters in it.
Whatever the reason, Mr Monkey decided he had to set off into Stockport - only this time without a map, just a general feeling he should wander all over town.
And after two visits, he had found:
Artist: musicMagpie's Design Team - Ian, Lucy and Sophie
This bonus frog is in the Stockport Exchange plaza, between Cornelius and Golding.
Frogpie is wearing the iridescent wings of a magpie because he's sponsored by musicMagpie. Mr Monkey was impressed by this frog, even though he's generally not in favour of magpies; he may have been influenced by recently finding a CD he was after at musicMagpie for much less of Mr Rik's money than he expected.
Mr Monkey still said "Hello Mr Magpie, how's your brother?" to ward off the potential ill effects of seeing a lone magpie, just to be on the safe side. A small monkey can never be careful.
Artist: Toubie Jack
Sponsor: Stockport Council Fostering Service
This bonus frog is in the middle of the Merseyway precinct.
Mr Monkey enjoys jigsaw puzzles and so he was delighted to find that Foster the Frog was decorated with puzzle pieces.
He was interested to see that some of the pieces were covered with handprints and guessed that they represented children's lives improved by fostering.
Artist: Lindi Kirwin
This bonus frog is between Wilko and The Range at the Peel Centre.
Lillian Phibian is clearly a nature loving frog, to the extent of having flowers growing out of her hat. She's also jumped off the lily pad that all the other frogs are sitting on, prefering instead to sit in a planter filled with wild flowers. Mr Monkey was really impressed by the realism and beauty of the flowers painted on Lillian's sides and back. When he looked at the photos back at home he wasn't totally sure ay first which of the flowers were real.
Mr Monkey thought a bit and decided he was not going to grow flowers in any of his collection of hats.
The frogs of Stockport's Giant Leap are on display until September 28th 2019, and you can find details of all the frogs at the Stockport's Giant Leap website.
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Copyright Rik Shepherd and Mr Monkey.