THE creative imaginations of dozens of local people sprung into action for this year's well dressing festival.

Forty-two springs, wells, spouts and other water features across the town and up on the Malvern Hills were decorated during this year's festival, organised as always by the Malvern Spa Association.

This year's theme was River of Life, which gave participants plenty of room to let their artistic instincts to roam free and come up with a variety of fascinating allegorical creations. Teams from schools and colleges, families and individuals all took part.

For the first time, the judging of the best-dressed well was delegated to members of the public, who were asked to view the entries and vote for their favourites by emailing the spa association.

Lionel Shorstone of the association said: "Once again, the quality of the decorations produced by our well-dressers was very high.

We believe it's the largest such event in the country, and our well dressers love taking part. By Tuesday we had some 150 votes, and the comments that people sent in with their votes were fascinating."

As part of the festival, a Buddhist blessing ceremony was held at the Clock Tower, North Malvern Road, and a Druidical ceremony at Hayslad in West Malvern, both on Sunday.

The well dressing festival was one of several events in and around Malvern that drew people into the town over the Bank Holiday weekend, despite discouraging weather forecasts.

The Tourist Information Centre recorded 1,000 visits over the weekend, 500 of them on the Saturday alone, when Abbey Road was the venue for the Malvern Arts and Craft Market.

Staged by Boffy Arts Markets and Malvern Hills District Council, the market showcased local talent and featured a range of work including ceramics, glass, jewellery, paintings, sculpture, printmaking, textiles and photography.

Malcolm Salisbury, the council's economic development officer, said: “We had a great turnout for our arts and crafts market and the event is becoming increasingly popular with locals and with people coming from further afield. We have another market coming up on May 25 as part of the Great Malvern Food Festival weekend and we look forward to welcoming plenty more visitors to Malvern once again.”