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Restoring the Caterpillar Stones

In September 2020 the caterpillar stones began to fade. Many images and messages could no longer be seen. The Community Council was asked if they could do something to protect and conserve the stones.

There was an idea that the caterpillar could become a butterfly. All 1460 stones were collected and placed in store. However, due to lockdown restrictions it was not possible for a group or organisation to take on a  project of this type.  

A local artist was so inspired by the idea of the caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly that she rescued the stones from storage and began the process of restoration. She spent over 400 hours, cleaning, painting and varnishing every single stone. 


Examples of stones before and after cleaning, painting and varnishing. Acrylic paints were used to try and obtain a close colour match.

All restoration was undertaken with the aim of restoring each stone as close as possible to that of the original





Stones came in all shapes and sizes. The tiniest ones were often no more than 1.5cm and the largest over 20cm. It was clear that people chose their stones with great care and felt a connection to its shape and form. 



The artist described it as a great privilege to be able to take a brush and retrace the same  lines and patterns that others had made to create their special stones and communicate such moving messages.

However, a number  of stones were so badly degraded that it wasn't possible to see the original image or message. Photos of these stones were posted on Facebook to see if anybody recognised them. The one below is a good example. Freya's family recognised the stone and provided a photograph of the original. The artist was then able to recreate it as close as possible to the one which was laid at the caterpillar.

Despite best efforts it sometimes wasn't possible to establish what had originally been painted on a stone. However, every stone was considered to be precious. Therefore, stones such as No1 on the left were painted black to help form the body, head and antenna of the butterfly. The artist also found that many children had written their names on the back of stones. These names can't be seen now that the stones are set inside the butterfly wings. The artist therefore inscribed as many names as possible on top of the black stones in the body of the butterfly.


Small Blue

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