The fun craze of rock art has accumulated an avalanche of hunters and artists across East Cambridgeshire.
In about six weeks, Spotted in Ely Rocks has attracted 1085 members, with numbers soaring each day.
Visitors and residents alike are choosing Ely and surrounding areas as rock hunting destinations, while local art shop Tindalls has devoted its window display to promoting the colourful craze.
The creative pursuit has also got locals chatting to one another, encouraged young and old to get outdoors and allowed residents to show off their artistic talents.
Spotted in Ely Rocks moderator Fleur Patten says Ely’s community spirit has helped fuel this latest rock craze.
“I think that it has become a massive phenomenon in Ely because Ely folk are not ferocious Fen Tigers, they are kind and giving, and Ely hosts an ideal city centre for rock dropping. Local shops have been very supportive. In a world of control, rules and avarice, Ely is showing it is motivated by kindness, creativity and generosity.”
It’s estimated that at least 100 rocks of art are being dropped around East Cambridgeshire each week, with finders urged to post photographs of their discoveries on our dedicated Facebook group, Spotted in Ely Rocks.
Finders can then decide whether to keep their treasures or rehide them so that others can join in the fun.
Sam Knightly and her daughter Sofia, five, have already hidden around 65 of their creations around Ely under the name “Sofia and Mummy”.
Sam said: “Sofia gets so excited leaving them.
We started off leaving them around her school. She checked every day to see if they had been found. Either we each design our own or I draw and she colours.”
Sam has described the time she spends with her daughter as “lovely quality time without resorting to TV.”
Ruth Hemingway, also a member of Spotted in Ely Rocks, said: “The exercise and fresh air, combined with the time with an adult helping to paint the rocks, is a perfect way to spend time together, inside and out!”
Spotted in Ely Rocks was recently featured on Sue Marchant’s show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
Fleur helped bring the craze to Ely after being inspired by a rock artist in St Ives, Cornwall.
Two of her pioneering creations were matryoshka Russian doll rock twins, one of whom went on an adventure after boarding a train at Ely Station, heading for London!
Fleur said that the attraction of rock art was that it was cheap and anyone could do it, regardless of age or skill.
“Most things these days are about some kind of payment and accumulation.
“What I like about rock painting is that there’s no money involved and no ownership. Whoever paints the rocks likes to see where they go and that makes it easier to part with the rock. But the painter has no control. If the finder wants to keep it, well it is kept. There are no rock police!”
Rock hunters will find designs to please everyone, ranging from beloved children’s storybook, television and film characters, such as Paddington Bear, Harry Potter and Lady Glitter Sparkles from Trolls, to mermaids, rainbows, animals – and everything in between.
Some rocks contain social messages, such as those promoting mental health charity Talking FreEly.
Stones frequently reposted on the Spotted in Ely Rocks group include a colourful array of rock art made by youngsters from The Weatheralls School in Soham before Christmas, which has been rehidden around the East Anglia region.
Plans in the pipeline include a rock painting session at a care home, bringing together residents and nursery kids.
Fleur said: “Rock painting’s not just for little people. It gets all ages out of the house and even talking. The group is very supportive of one another and a rock can bring joy to even the stoniest of hearts.”