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A charming craze that began in South Devon because kids found Pokemon Go boring has become a viral hit on social media.

Four weeks ago, Sam McKinven painted some pictures on stones and hid them for her friends’ children to find on a day out.

Now, less than a month later, the cute idea has been taken up by a group of nearly 4,000 people across the county – with people painting stones, leaving them for others to find and swapping notes afterwards on social media.

“I’m absolutely stunned,” Sam, who lives in Marldon, near Paignton, told Devon Live.

“I had no idea this would take off as it has – but isn’t it wonderful? It’s been such a lot of fun and we’re only just getting going. I’d love to see this idea spreading across the whole of the South West.”

On Wednesday morning at 7am, Sam went out for a walk and popped pretty decorated stones in unexpected places. Some are along the seafront, others just on the side of the pavement. On the reverse of each stone is a message, asking the finder to post a picture of themselves with the stone to a dedicated Facebook group: Devon Rocks and Stones.

When Devon Live met Sam, she’d just left half a dozen of her creations down the main route into Paignton. Looking at her Facebook page, she spots beaming faces of parents and children who found them on their way to school.

Sometimes the finders keep the stones or they can re-hide them for others to enjoy.

“It’s totally up to them,” says Sam. “What has been really lovely is that so many people have started decorating stones too and joining in the game. It really has gone a bit mad!”

Indeed, a quick scroll through the group’s Facebook page reveals people finding and hiding stones in Okehampton, Newton Abbot, Torquay, Dartmoor and Brixham. “It started here in Torbay because that’s where I live, but it’s spreading all the time,” says Sam.

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Members take pictures of their designs and finders post pictures of the stones where they have found them. Everything from apples to zebras are painted on the stones. “I love the fact that it costs pennies – I use paint I had at home anyway and the varnish costs £1 a tin from the pound shop,” says Sam. “I’ve always loved craft and drawing, so this is just a lovely hobby for me.”

It all started, Sam explains, with Pokemon: “My husband Josef and I have been mad on searching for Pokemon since the game came out just over a year ago.

“We had a get-together with other Pokemon gamers in the summer and I noticed that my friend’s children were finding it all a bit boring. So when we met up again, I painted some pictures of Pokemon on stones, which I hid for the children to find. They enjoyed the game so I decided to paint some more and hide them, to see what happened.

“There’s a group doing something similar in Shropshire who got in touch and said they’d really like it if I got something going down here, so I set up the Facebook page and it has really captured people’s imagination.”

Sam hopes the hobby will spread, she says. “These days, children spend so much time on screens, they don’t get involved with art and craft like we did when I was a child. This is also a great way to get out in the fresh air and go for a walk.

“In fact, I think it’s the perfect hobby – if it’s raining you can stay in and paint, if it’s nice weather you can go out and hide stones, or look for them.”

Sam moved to Devon a year ago from her home town of Stoke-on-Trent.

“My husband Josef and I love it here and this is just another way that Devon is proving to be so friendly and relaxed.

“I never dreamed I’d start off a craze here though, but it just goes to show – you never know what will happen!”

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