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Meet The Covid Cobra: Hylands Park’s stone snake that’s bringing messages of positivity

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 June 2020

Arlene's son, Jacob Raife, meeting classmate, Aubrey Mee at the Covid Cobra after 12 weeks. Picture: Arlene Raife

Arlene's son, Jacob Raife, meeting classmate, Aubrey Mee at the Covid Cobra after 12 weeks. Picture: Arlene Raife

Arlene Raife

The Covid Cobra started with just a few stones from families after a group chat. Now, the winding snake in Hylands Park is 1,000 stones-strong, with Homebase donating, BBC coverage and its own buzzing Facebook group.

Chloe and Mason Clark pose with the Cobra. Picture: Arlene RaifeChloe and Mason Clark pose with the Cobra. Picture: Arlene Raife

When Hornchurch mum and school cover supervisor, Arlene Raife, was furloughed at home with her three-year-old, she decided to spend her time placing uplifting messages around the community.

Arlene said: “It started with putting positive messages around the local parks for people to enjoy on their daily walks. I then started putting challenges on trees for children, everyone was loving them!

“Working in a school and having my own child I know how difficult it can be to keep children entertained especially when there is no structure at home anymore.

“We are used to getting up and having daily routines but over the past few weeks, I know this definitely changed in my house. I wanted not just to keep the children entertained but adults too!”

Resident June Albon, who hadn't been out of the house for four months took her first outing to the see Covid the Cobra. Picture: Arlene RaifeResident June Albon, who hadn't been out of the house for four months took her first outing to the see Covid the Cobra. Picture: Arlene Raife

Indeed, not only have children all over the area painted a stone or two, the latest donation was from a self-confessed “adult rock-painting addict”, who has painted 422 stones!

Arlene said: “I have been enjoying painting stones of an evening. I have met so many adults in the park who have been participating, it’s just so heartwarming.”

Arlene first got the idea after seeing something online and thought the Covid Cobra would be a fitting name.

She explained: “I put a message on our group chat telling them about the idea and asking for them to get involved and as always they were always very supportive and they and their kids got involved.

One-year-old Macey Farmer places her stone. Picture: Arlene RaifeOne-year-old Macey Farmer places her stone. Picture: Arlene Raife

“My son and I got painting and started the cobra the next day, adding less than 10 stones to him in Hyland’s Park in Hornchurch. I left a sign up asking for people to add to him and also on local Facebook pages.”

As the colourful cobra got some traction, Romford Homebase supplied the master painters with more than 20 bags of stones. Barleylands farm shop donated as well.

“I have been able to distribute these to local schools and also to my school Eastbury Primary School. For the children returning to school in these upcoming weeks, it is going to be different for them, a lot different to what it was when they left 12 weeks ago.

“I really wanted them to remember how amazing school can be and even though it will be a little different for now, it doesn’t mean we can’t have lots of fun.

The Rolling Stones logo and The Rolling Stones logo and "thank you Homebase" who donated 20 bags of stones for the project. Picture: Arlene Raife

The messages on the stones send their support for the NHS, remembrance for lost loved ones and greetings to families abroad.

“That’s what is so great about this, there are no rules, you paint on a stone how you are feeling. We all experience dark days, and to be able to express it and paint it or write it onto something is just amazing,” Arlene added.

“Just one person with an idea. It really goes to show that alone we can do a little, but together we can do so much more. We are all in this together and it is strange times, there is no doubt about it.”

Local photographer and friend of Arlene, Courtney Mee told the BBC: “It didn’t matter whether you were out for a little walk or out for picnic, everyone has stopped to talk about the Covid Cobra, and also to read the messages that others have painted, it brings so much joy to the community.”

The cobra in Hylands Park.The cobra in Hylands Park.

What could be next for the cobra? Arlene has no specific plans but says: “I know lots of the community were talking about how wonderful would it be if we could set the stones in the pavement where they were placed.

“I suppose that would be the dream! But if not we will still always remember this time, when we came together as one and remember how our communities came together and that is wonderful, I really hope that doesn’t change.”

Instructions for the Covid Cobra. Picture: Arlene RaifeInstructions for the Covid Cobra. Picture: Arlene Raife

The head of the cobra.The head of the cobra.

Messages on the stones.Messages on the stones.

The rocks making the Covid cobra in Hylands Park.The rocks making the Covid cobra in Hylands Park.

Hylands ParkHylands Park

Hylands ParkHylands Park

Hylands ParkHylands Park

Painted stones making up the cobra.Painted stones making up the cobra.

The stonesThe stones

The stones are painted with messages.The stones are painted with messages.

Hylands ParkHylands Park

The stones wind around the edge of the grass in Hylands ParkThe stones wind around the edge of the grass in Hylands Park

Painted messagesPainted messages

Stones in Hylands ParkStones in Hylands Park

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