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Dance Decades

With John Leech

People being encouraged to paint stones for ‘Covid the Cobra’ in Hylands Park

The start of Covid the Cobra, which now features more than 600 stones

A woman from Hornchurch is encouraging people to add painted stones to a trail of stones in Hylands Park.

Arlene Raife started the snake after seeing a similar idea on the internet and what followed has been remarkable.

Local Facebook users have joined in with the painting and decorating of stones and more than 600 have been added. It is estimated the snake, which Arlene named ‘Covid the Cobra’, is now 50 metres long.

Arlene said: “I have been at home for the last 12 weeks with a three-year-old, stuck indoors, and I have spent lots of days going around local parks and putting up little signs of encouragement for people, little challenges for children.”

Taking inspiration from the stones she had seen online, Arlene said: “I went to Homebase, and got a few stones, started painting, and I just can’t believe that today we’re over 600 stones.”

A tree near Covid the Cobra which explains how it works to passers-by

Homebase in Romford also donated some bags of stones so that anyone who wanted to join in could take part.

“I’ve been leaving them in Hylands Park all week and I really want to give everybody the opportunity to get stones,” Arlene added. “If you get down to Hylands Park this weekend, please collect your stone, decorate it and bring it back to Covid the Cobra. You do not need to have a stone from the park – it can be small, it can be big. Whatever you want.

“Please upload any of your photos, we would love to see them.”

Some of the stones left in Hylands Park

As well as the stones, Arlene created a “fairy garden” outside her home in Norman Road, for passing children to enjoy. The fairies even leave stickers for the kids.

“I know myself that entertaining a three-year-old is extremely difficult and we can’t go anywhere so walking is our saviour really,” Arlene said, who says she has noticed the community coming together through it.

“We’ve all got busy lives … and I think now we’re just sitting back. Everybody has to stop because everybody’s not been going to work so I think we all just have that little bit of extra time for each other.

“I’ve been shopping for some of my elderly neighbours and it’s been so wonderful talking to them which I never really did before.”

You can see more photos of the snake and keep updated on its length by joining the Covid the Cobra Facebook group here.


Hear more from Arlene in the news on Time 107.5 all morning on Saturday, 6 June.

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