'Close-knit' community covers town in woollen art to mark big bike race
Yarnbombing street artists are celebrating this year's Tour de Yorkshire cycle race by decorating a town under the cover of darkness with hundreds of woollen creations.
Around 300 people - aged between one and 97 - have been involved in the community effort to cover Thirsk, in North Yorkshire, with a range of knitted and crocheted designs.
The market town woke up to the decorations on Sunday morning after 50 of the Thirsk Yarnbombers spent the night - dressed head-to-toe in black - putting the woolly items on display along the race route.
Members of the group used around 750 balls of wool to make hundreds of metres of bunting; decorate trees, bollards, benches and fences; knit life-size people and animals; and make specially crafted door hangers for each for the town's 150 shops.
A huge banner reading "Thirsk Yarnbombers Support the Tour de Yorkshire" is being displayed near Thirsk and Northallerton Golf Club and a statue of James Herriot at the World of James Herriot museum has been given a knitted birthday cake and bright pink leg warmers.
The organisers said people from around the world had contributed knitting and crochet after hearing about the project.
Ann Akers, who set up the group with Samantha Spence, said the scheme had brought the community together.
Ms Akers, 58, said: "We set up a Facebook site and it just grew. In about a fortnight we had 150 members.
"Churches, the WI, schools, childminders and old people's homes have all got involved. Our youngest is one and the oldest is 97. We've had people with dementia, people with disabilities and people who suffer quite badly from depression. It's just lifted people.
"It's been fantastic. I can't believe the support that's been given to us.
"The whole of Thirsk has pulled together."
Ms Akers said she insisted the decorating party all wore black masks or black face paint as they put up their creations in secret.
"We all had a pom-pom on our outfits though so the police didn't think we were burglars," she added.
The three-day Tour de Yorkshire cycling event will pass through Thirsk during its final stage from Middlesbrough to Scarborough on Sunday May 1.
It begins on Friday with a 184-kilometre route from Beverley to Settle and the second stage on Saturday will see cyclists tackling a 135km route from Otley to Doncaster.