I’m staring at a faceless girl wearing a gym slip hovering about 15 feet above Sonning high street. Instead of fleeing in the opposite direction, gibbering incoherently at the advancing crowd, I merely nod in vague recognition and say, “Oh yes, a tennis match.” Both of my children seem happy that I too have now witnessed this disturbing apparition and we casually amble on. It’s no wonder that we’ve become hardened to such oddity. Just prior to levitating tennis girls we had to endure a fisherman having his leg gnawed by a great white, an alien entity on a magic carpet orbiting a very George Melies looking moon and a lounging half man/half snake made out of flower pots.

      Truth is this cavalcade of the bizarre isn’t the product of a pre bed time Jarlesberg binge, but is actually part of Sonning’s scarecrow trail. Now in its sixth year the event acts as both a cash injection for local amenities, and as a vehicle to bring the garden committee’s shining stars to a wider audience.

      Walking around all 71 displays you could be forgiven for assuming that the quintessential mix of the twee and the eccentric was home grown – an adaptation, perhaps of some pagan, crop fertility ritual. It is, in fact, the brainchild of Malcolm Stansfield – a Yorkshire man who moved to the village at the turn of the 21st century. After establishing himself as the chair of the Garden’s Committee, and enlisting the aid of co-organiser Pam Glasspool, he introduced the idea of the scarecrow trail after a success with similar endeavours up north. And from the evidence of the crowds packing out Sonning’s narrow streets, it’s obvious that the event has bedded well despite transplantation.

      An interesting twist, however, comes with the way the local community have made this odd little festival their own. In among the cultural touchstones of Edward Scissor Hands and Amy Winehouse a small selection of scarecrows satirically address local issues. Terminal 5, for instance, depicts a scene of lost luggage and the general chaos some residents have recently faced, whereas Speed Cop characterises the village’s on-going battle with traffic.

      Look beyond these overt jibes, and artistry and ingenuity vie for your appreciation over and above more familiar – and frankly less interesting – crowd pleasers. Yes these events need their Shreks and their Elvises, but it’s the more enigmatic scarecrows that truly linger in the mind’s eye. Take the Disappearing Canon and its representation of a man of the cloth being ballisticly launched into the air as a prime example. Or the frankly eerie Tales of the Unexpected, that revealed itself to be a person in costume via the minute movements of a typical inner city mime. But it was Vogelschueche on Holiday that received my personal award for gentle peculiarity. This bald, amorphous figure was sat in a deck chair, a ceramic tankard by its side. Behind it was a sun lounger draped with a towel in the colours of the German flag. An obvious dig at our fellow Europeans? But there, at the top of the house’s drive, a Mercedes sporting Germanic number plates. As with everything else on the Scarecrow Trail, there’s a lot more going on than initially meets the eye.