IN THE last chapter of Philip Pullman’s award-winning novel The Amber Spyglass, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry promise to meet on a bench in Oxford’s Botanic Garden at Midsummer’s Day each year.
Since the novel was published 11 years ago, the bench has become a popular destination for tourists, and Will and Lyra’s links with the garden are now being immortalised in a new audio guide.
The celebrated author has recorded a talk for visitors to the garden which they can hear by using a new map.
Visitors press photos on the map showing different locations and then listen to audio clips contained in the pen.
Highlights of the guide include information about flowers, trees and plants throughout the garden off High Street.
Mr Pullman, a patron of the Story Museum in Pembroke Street, was asked to contribute to the audio guide by the museum’s Eka Morgan, who edited the audio clips.
Mr Pullman said: “I think the audio guide is a very good idea and I recorded my bit a few months ago.
“It’s a nice bench in a very nice place – the Botanic Garden is such a lovely thing to have in Oxford.
“I’m working on another Lyra book right now – it’s called The Book of Dust.
“It’s going very well and it will be finished when I write the words ‘The End’.”
Senior curator of the Botanic Garden Dr Alison Foster said people could use the audio guide free when they paid the £4 admission fee.
But they will have to leave £50 cash, a driving licence or a bank card as a deposit as the guides cost about £90 each to produce.
Dr Foster added: “The audio pen reads a code embedded in the photos on the A4-size map and the code activates the recording.
“If the guides prove popular we may well buy more to add to the 10 copies we have.
“There are 21 recordings and the last one is Philip Pullman’s – we thought it would be a good idea to end the guide at Will and Lyra’s bench, which is by the pond in the lower garden.
“The garden gets 130,000 visitors a year and this could be a way of attracting more.”
Other speakers who have recorded clips include garden director Timothy Walker and garden staff Emma Williams, Kate Pritchard and Lily Friend.
The audio guides are available from tomorrow.