Hope Springs Eternal: Wiltshire town spreads joy through decorations

Residents across Malmesbury have collaborated to spread joy in the dark days of winter by decorating their houses and the town centre with bright images of spring.

As a response to the time of year and the challenges of lockdown, the locals of Malmesbury have fought back and joined socially-distant forces in bringing a smile to faces of people in the town and beyond.

The exhibition of colour, seen on every corner of the market town, resonates with images of spring, with butterflies, flowers and colourful pom poms just some of the creative smile-inducing displays that locals have crafted.

The idea was born by local resident Jackie Peel, after she decided she did not want to take down her Christmas decorations.

“I was about to take those down and I thought I don’t want to. It’s too dark, it’s too miserable, I don’t want to be in lockdown, so that’s when I had some bright neon roses and so I started with those and then I sort of went rummaging and threw everything into this,” she told Oh My Goodness.

Jackie Peel (pictured) came up with the idea of Hope Springs Eternal after not wanting to take her Christmas decorations down.

After putting the idea to a community Facebook group and letting locals vote on what to do, the name ‘Hope Springs Eternal’ was suggested by group member Michelle Fillingham, but Jackie says everyone was determined to make “anything that was positive, that would cheer people up”.

Jackie, who runs a marketing consultancy business, says all age groups have joined in making wreaths and fairy houses, but she is particularly lifted by the care homes who have joined in.

“You think of all these residents that are making flowers, knitting and crocheting, I mean it’s wonderful! It’s across the generations and bringing them all together as well so it’s a great feeling,” she said.

Jackie says she expected that Hope Springs Eternal would be a hit in Malmesbury after the success of a lights trail organised by local councillor Julie Exton, which saw people from the town join together in at Christmas.

Jackie believes that more than 200 homes have taken part in the trail so far.

With permission from the council, Jackie and her team have been ‘pom poming’ all the railings across Malmesbury.

However, what she did not expect was the reaction from surrounding towns and villages with Pewsey, Bridgnorth in Shropshire and Appley Bridge of Greater Manchester just some of the outside areas who have approached her.

“It’s unbelievable what some people are doing. I thought it would go quite well in Malmesbury, but I had no idea that it would go any further. It was the belief that if we’re feeling like this in our town, everybody must be feeling like this,” she added.

But residents have not stopped there with socially-distanced methods of bringing the community together.

One of the supporting organisers of Hope Springs Eternal, Krista Davies, decided to paint some pebbles and leave unpainted pebbles outside her house so that children could take one and join in the trail by doing something different during half term.

Krista and other locals have been hiding pebbles along the trail so children can join in during half term. (Krista Davies)

Krista says the project gave her something to get her “teeth into” and kept her “engaged” in lockdown which she admits has been “difficult at times”.

“Some days have been so difficult, [but] this rallies everyone together and makes them feel like they’re all a part of something when we’re not able to go and see people,” she told Oh My Goodness.

Krista’s son George, who is also one of the key figureheads behind Hope Springs Eternal; along with Ben Thornbury, is filming videos of the town’s crafts to make them accessible to everyone, especially those who are still shielding from coronavirus.

“We’re a little team. I’m crafting and he’s the creative behind the films. I’m very proud of what George has done to contribute to this, it’s been lovely to be part of a team. There’s five of us [and we] have all come together,” Krista added.

Four of the team of five behind Hope Springs Eternal. (From left to right) George Davies and his mum Krista, Ben Thornbury who created the website and Jackie Peel.

Local inventor Tom Lawton, 44, who lives just outside the centre of Malmesbury in Burton Hill, who joined in with the festivities, called Hope Springs Eternal “infectious and joyful”.

Tom gave his eight-year-old son, Rufus, freedom to paint a scrap piece of plastic and display it on the front of their house to truly join in the spirit of colourful decorations.

“You just want to join in the cheerfulness of it and obviously if you’ve got that then it puts a smile on someone else’s face,” Tom said.

Local inventor Tom Lawton with his son Rufus (left). Tom let the eight-year-old paint the rainbow art on a piece of plastic and install it outside their house as a way of joining in the trail. (Tom Lawton)

Jackie reserves particular praise for her team who helped to make Hope Springs Eternal a reality and has not ruled out plans of the town joining together again at Easter.

“It’s a jolly good thing to have done. I’m feeling so much more positive about everything and also thankful for the town we live in because you ask them to do something here and they really do rally, they have been absolutely brilliant.

“You tie a pom pom on a railing and the amount of toots [that you get] from drivers. You brighten somebody’s day by doing [this] and I think that’s magical. It’s lifted me personally,” she added.

Below are just some of our favourite creations from Malmesbury locals:

For inspiration, or to learn more about this amazing demonstration of community togetherness, visit the Hope Springs Eternal website.

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