Angry Exmouth parents claim kids' artwork was binned by council workers

PUBLISHED: 14:47 21 March 2018 | UPDATED: 07:12 22 March 2018

Left to right: Maisie, Harry and ruby Salter, out and about in Exmouth hiding and looking for 'Smile Stones'. Picture by Samantha Moore.

Left to right: Maisie, Harry and ruby Salter, out and about in Exmouth hiding and looking for 'Smile Stones'. Picture by Samantha Moore.

Archant

Angry parents are in a row over a children's art craze which they claim has been trashed by council workers.

A selection of colourful 'Smile Stones' painted by Exmouth children. Picture by Samantha Moore.A selection of colourful 'Smile Stones' painted by Exmouth children. Picture by Samantha Moore.

Smile stones – painted pebbles left for others to find, keep, or re-hide – have caught the imagination of scores of Exmouth youngsters and families.

But parents claim heartless council workers who find the children’s artwork hidden in public places around the town have been throwing it away.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) said it had no evidence of staff binning the children’s art; it has told workers finding painted pebbles to leave them in-situ.

Brixington mum-of-two Samantha Moore, aged 28, who set up the Exmouth Smile Stone group, said spoilsports who throw away the stones are killing a community project which aims to get kids out in the fresh air.

Samantha Moore's two year-old daughter Alice enjoys taking part in Exmouth's 'Smile Stone' trend. Picture by Samantha Moore.Samantha Moore's two year-old daughter Alice enjoys taking part in Exmouth's 'Smile Stone' trend. Picture by Samantha Moore.

Samantha, of St John’s Road, said she has seen the positive impact of hunting out the stones, adding: “I can’t understand why someone would actually want to throw them away; I don’t see how something so wonderful for children can be classed as litter.

“The children think it is magical - like finding treasures. It’s nice to be in the fresh air and have family time; it’s brilliant.

“It’s just a nice thing that the community is coming together to do and it is a shame it is being ruined for the children.”

Another mum, who did not want to be named, said she ‘confronted’ a council worker about throwing away the stones. She claimed the worker admitted binning several of them.

Samantha set up an Exmouth Smile Stone group on social media after finding a painted pebble of Piglet from Winnie the Pooh at The Donkey Sanctuary; on the flip side it said: “Sidmouth Smile Stone. Take a picture and re-hide.”

Samantha said: “There is lots of discussion on the Smile Stones page where people are talking about how their stones have been found - lots to begin with and then not found again.

“Also, lots of my own have not been shared recently, whereas before they were reappearing most days.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “We’ve been unable to track down any team members who might have thrown away Smile Stones.

“We have not instructed any of our team to throw them away and have told all the teams to leave Smile Stones where they find them, unless they cause a specific hazard.”

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