"As the Crow Flies" - a signpost installation

“As the Crow Flies” – a signpost installation lockdown project
6th August 2020 Jane Tomlinson

Listen to me talking about my signpost on BBC Radio Oxford on 15 August 2020:

Freeland SignpostLockdown folk art with a global view

While recovering from an eye operation in July 2020, I began an easy-to-paint personal project I’d had in mind for some time – an art installation of a signpost, measuring distances ‘as-the-crow-flies’ in miles to how far it is to places that are significant or meaningful to me or my family.

I wanted to put myself and where I live on the map. Freeland in West Oxfordshire is a sleepy rural village that no one has ever heard of, but it’s my home and therefore the centre of my world. During the pandemic, when travel was inadvisable or impossible, all our worlds became small and local, didn’t they? So the signpost reflects my yearning to get out there, and my need to take a global view of things.

My husband Moth on the left and our builder, Alan French, on the right with the first 7 signs to go up.

Outward-looking – a signpost to the world

The signpost itself is a kind of map, allowing the viewer to orientate themselves and understand where they stand (quite literally) in relation to the rest of the world. I hope that it will raise a smile and make people think about their place on the planet.

My “As the Crow Flies” signpost has been installed in our front garden on Pigeon House Lane, close to the narrow single track lane on which we live. It’s a route popular with local walkers, dog-walkers, joggers, and horse riders, as well as a rat run for delivery drivers – how I wish they’d slow down!

Signs of the times

Each sign on “As the Crow Flies” has been hand painted with carefully chosen typography and colours:

  • Freeland, Oxfordshire – At the top of the sign is a placement ‘polo’ – just like the rural road signs had that I remember from my childhood. There is a fine example of an ‘Oxford – County’ signpost outside County Hall in Oxford.
  • To properly place where I am on the planet, I need to know my bearing in relation to the North and South Poles.
  • From the corner of the field opposite you can see Oxford‘s spires rising up just 7 miles away as the crow flies. I was educated there, my kids were born there, it’s my adopted home city.
  • Eynsham, where I lived for 21 years, is a beautiful vibrant village. There’s a place for it forever in my heart.
  • Stratford-upon-Avon is where I was born and raised.
  • When my father was a visiting professor at the University of California in the 1960s, from our sitting room window we could look across the bay to see lights of downtown San Francisco.
  • My nephew Alex moved to small town near Adelaide in 2017. We miss him terribly! My brother Paul – Alex’s father – painted this sign.
  • I know Amsterdam better than my own capital city. As a student and lover of Dutch art, I have visited more times than I can count.
  • An very dear old friend to moved to Santiago de Chile 10 years ago. We visited in 2011 and hope one day to see him again.
  • Equidistant between my childhood home of Stratford-upon-Avon and my adult life in West Oxfordshire are the Rollright Stones, a neolithic stone circle complex.
  • We make an annual pilgrimage to the small island of Skomer, off the coast of Pembrokeshire every year (though obviously not in 2020) to visit the puffin colony.
  • The Isles of Scilly because it’s magic!
  • Hong Kong – we visited many times when my mother lived there for many year. This sign was painted by mum.

I hope that over time, more signs will be added to the signpost.

I should also add, that as the UK commits national suicide by Brexit, the signpost stands as a reminder that whether Brexiteers like it or not, the UK is part of a global community.


Heartfelt thanks to my husband Moth, my brother Paul, my first husband Greg, and our friendly local builder Alan French for their ideas and help with this art installation. Without their support, enthusiasm and skills with wielding power tools, this signpost would still exist only in my head.

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