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Elmer the Patchwork Elephant trail launches in Maidstone, raising funds for Heart of Kent Hospice, Aylesford

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Elmer and his friends have brightened up Maidstone as the family friendly art trail we have all been waiting for launched in the County Town today.

The sculptures will stand proudly in their carefully selected spots for the next nine weeks as part of Elmer's Big Heart of Kent Parade.

It is the first-ever public art trail of its kind to visit the County Town and is based on one of the world's most famous children's book characters, Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, by David McKee.

The event will raise money for Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford.

Some 51 uniquely designed elephant sculptures, decorated by local and national artists, have been scattered across Maidstone forming three walks totalling around six miles.

Each will sit on a concrete plinth and contain a plaque. These have been made by veterans at Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Co. Factories in Aylesford.

The Kent Messenger also has two sculptures associated with it. You can find 'Lucy' located on the approach to KM Millennium Bridge, accessed from the river path side, and ‘Zoo Park Shenanigans’ located in Mote Park, near the watersports centre.

Kelly Davis
Kelly Davis

KentOnline has been speaking to some people on the first day of the trail. Kelly Davis, 40, from Aylesford, said she only popped into town for a few bits but loved seeing the elephants on her way in through Brenchley Gardens.

She said: "I think I'll go round and find them all now, it's better than sitting at home.

"Elmer is a really lovely story, I've been reading it with the kids I work with at nursery so I'll definitely have to let everyone know to come along and visit."

Peter 40, and Hannah May, 37, who live near Mote Park, came into town with their son Albert, three, especially for the trail.

Hannah said: "We've already found 10 but were going to do a bit today then carry on with the others gradually.

Albert, Hannah and Peter
Albert, Hannah and Peter

Elizabeth Castle, 73, Kay Castle, 43 and Venetia Gibbs, 49, were exploring the trail in memory of Elizabeth's husband Colin who was cared for at Heart of Kent Hospice before he passed away earlier this year.

Elizabeth, from Detling said: "I'm doing it for him more than myself.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Elmer Armstrong."

Kay added: "We've seen the ones in Brenchley Gardens and in the Royal Star.

"The one that looks like a mummy is my favourite."

Venetia, Kay and Elizabeth taking part in the Elmer trail in Maidstone
Venetia, Kay and Elizabeth taking part in the Elmer trail in Maidstone

Richard Jackson, 43, from West Malling noticed the Elmers with his son Tom, 11, after dropping off his daughter at ballet.

Richard said: "We just decided to come into town and we've noticed them on our way in.

"I remember it from when the kids were little.

"I think we'll download the app and we might come back when I've picked up my daughter and see if we can find a few more."

Richard and Tom Jackson
Richard and Tom Jackson

One elephant taking its spot on the walking route has been designed by Maidstone born artist Nathan Reed.

The illustrator who went to Brunswick House primary school and Maidstone Grammar School, has been illustrating stories since 2001 and has worked with many publishers including Bloomsbury, Harper Collins, Hodder and Penguin.

After his father was treated by Heart of Kent Hospice, the 43-year-old saw the trail as a good opportunity to give something back.

Mr Reed now lives in London but his elephant design features many nods to Maidstone landmarks and childhood memories such as Iggy the iguanodon and hot air balloons inspired by Leeds Castle.

Twins Oscar and Florence
Twins Oscar and Florence

Recent picture books he has illustrated include “Incredible You” by Rhys Brisenden and “Flea seeks Dog!” by Will Mabbitt.

Some will be on sale at Waterstones in Fremlin Walk for the duration of the event.

As well as the bigger elephants, 31 smaller sculptures were placed in The Mall, Royal Star Arcade and the hospice shop on King Street and library yesterday which you can also visit along the way.

They were designed by children from schools and community groups across the town.

Before starting, explorers can visit the hospice team at Elmer HQ in The Mall or Fremlin walk, to pick up a hand-illustrated map showing the way around.

Children in Maidstone designed Elmer sculptures for the Big Heart of Kent Parade. Picture: Heart of Kent Hospice
Children in Maidstone designed Elmer sculptures for the Big Heart of Kent Parade. Picture: Heart of Kent Hospice

Or you can download the free Elmer’s Big Heart of Kent Parade app from the App Store or Google Play.

It has check-ins at each sculpture, trail statistics, insights into the parade and people can vote for their favourite.

Community artist, speed painter and tutor, Lois Cordelia, has created Leeds Castle’s ‘Heart of the Garden’ elephant which has been placed outside the Kent History and Library Centre, in Maidstone.

A ‘learning herd’ decorated by children from local schools can also be found within the library.

These include elephants designed by Harrietsham C of E Primary School, Palace Wood Primary School, Park Way Primary School, Senacre Wood Primary School, West Borough Primary School and Wouldham All Saints C of E Primary School.

The library also has an elephant created for the Heart of Kent Hospice, beautifully designed by artist Vanessa Brown.

During the nine weeks Elmer and his friends are at the library, young visitors will be offered free craft and learning packs, including an elephant quiz, and there will be running competitions with the chance to win prizes - including tickets to Leeds Castle.

Online story times can also be found on Maidstone Libraries’ Facebook page.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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