A story of intrigue, creativity and adventure is emerging out of the Hilltops Region, and its managing to capture the imaginations of children of all ages.
As hard as it is to believe that something as simple as a rock could inspire innovation, indeed smooth, rounded palm-sized pebbles have become the currency of choice for kids in the region and henceforth form the centrepiece of this thrilling tale.
It’s all thanks to Matt and Cheryl Clarke and their kids – Chloe, 5, and Madison, 8 – who, keen for a tree change and a spot closer to their former hometown of Griffith, moved to Young from the NSW Central Coast last year.
Not only did Matt bring his skills and talent to join Hilltops Council as a project manager, but on the recreational side, the small family have imported a hide-and-seek movement for children in the district, and beyond, which is gaining momentum daily.
All it involves is a pile of rocks, acrylic paint pens, a paintbrush, clear sealant and, hey presto, you’re off and running into the wild to hide your rock for others to find.
“When we started this we didn’t know how big it could be,” Matt tells Region Media. “But it’s now 10 times bigger than what I thought so it’s been fantastic.
“When we got to 100 members, we were going, ‘Wow, we got 100.’ Now we have 524.”
By members, he means people who have joined the Hilltops Rocks Facebook page, where children who find the painted rocks post a photo before they hide the rock again for others to find. Or they can keep it.
The 524 members of Hilltops Rocks on Facebook has now surpassed their alma mater, Central Coast Rocks Facebook group.
And a search on Facebook reveals the international nature of the painted and found rock movement.
Back in Young, rocks turn up in the oddest of places – on Boorowa Street, inside Woolworths supermarket, the new Bunnings store, and beside posts – but the most popular spots are the town’s landmark tourist attractions of Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Gardens and Carrington Park.
Some people have ventured forth to Boorowa and Jugiong – remaining within the confines of the local government area – but imagine the thrill when a Hilltops Rock turned up in Port Kembla, near Wollongong, and then another near Nowra.
Because each rock is stamped, or painted, with the Facebook logo and the name, Hilltops Rocks, identification is simple and can easily be traced back to its creator.
While the group’s focus is on hiding the rocks right now, Matt reckons his girls have painted around 60 rocks in their creative career – Chloe is big on stars and Madison loves painting rainbows – and for them, the standout finds, apart from their own, have been a cat rock and unicorn rock.
But Matt and Cheryl derive most satisfaction from seeing the girls get inventive, not just with paints, but with the locations.
“I know with our two they’re always keen to go out and look for rocks,” he says. “It’s a great way for them to discover the town and forge connections with other kids they meet in the parks or wherever they happen to be searching for new spots to place the rocks.
“They’re [the rocks] always in weird and wonderful places and you just never know where you will find one. People are hiding them in strange places and people are finding them in strange locations.”
The Facebook site is peppered with clues to help lead the explorers to their quarry.
Meanwhile, Matt offers some tips for aspiring rock artists:
- Look for smooth round rocks which can be found in nature or art stores.
- Paint pens are easier to use than paintbrushes.
- A clear, fast-drying sealant will protect the rock.
- Make sure you put the Facebook logo and Hilltops Rocks on your work of art.
- When you find a rock, take a photo and post it to the page.
- Then keep it or place it in another location.