THE popular Malvern Well Dressing Festival returns to the town this weekend.

The festival will be held from May 1 to May 9 and will see up to 49 wells and spouts creatively decorated in the theme of the planets and stars.

The annual event celebrated the importance of Malvern’s springs from the ancient pagan traditions to the Victorian Water Cure.

It is brought to the town by the Malvern Spas Association with local businesses and community groups taking part.

Visitors can view the wonderful creations by purchasing a map from the Malvern Tourist Information Centre for £1 and setting off across the hills on foot, by bicycle or on a self-drive tour.

Victoria Carman, visitor economy officer at Malvern Hills District Council, said: “We are thrilled to hear Malvern Well Dressing will go ahead.

“It is wonderful that families and local community groups are coming together to dress the wells, springs and spouts to celebrate Malvern’s rich history.

“Thank you to Malvern Spa Association for all their hard work in helping to make this happen.”

Along with the festival, the Malvern Spa Association has unveiled its new summer exhibition in-between Waitrose and Church Street.

The exhibition consists of twenty-five panels, which tell the story of Malvern’s unique and ancient spring water heritage from prehistoric times to the present day.

Many of the panels feature photographs taken by celebrated Malvern photographer Jan Sedlacek of Digitlight, whose extraordinary shots of night-time skies over the Malvern Hills have won him national acclaim.

Mr Sedlacek and members of the MSA have enjoyed collaborating closely on the project for several months, and are building up an extensive collection of beautiful photos of Malvern’s natural and cultural water heritage for future reference (and possibly, a book).

One of the panels (no. 17) shows a poster of a Malvern Water advertising campaign from the early 2000s, which caused some controversy at the time.

The MSA’s aims include increasing knowledge of Malvern’s water heritage, promoting the conservation, restoration and enhancement of the springs, preserving historic water traditions and celebrating the benefits of the resource.

The organisation was formed in 1998.

At that time there were no public water spouts in the town centre, and Malvern water could not be bought in the shops.

Only 60 springs had been identified, and many were in disrepair.

Since then, more have been found, and with the help of local partners and organisations, several have been restored.

Malvern water can now be drunk from a spout in the town centre, at the Malvhina fountain created by artist Rose Garrard in September 1998.

Maps of the dressed wells are also available from the TIC.

A spokesman for the Spa Association said: “We hope the exhibition will inspire people to discover a few of the springs and wells, and that they will want to find out more about this precious natural resource - and help us protect it for future generations.”