COMMUNITY spirit has ensured that Queenie the Hilltop Hare is returning to Malmesbury after thousands of pounds were collected to buy it at auction.

Queenie was one of four hares in the town that were part of the Cotswold Hare Trail 2017 which ran from April to September in towns and villages across several counties.

People clubbed together to raise money to buy Queenie at an auction of all the hares at Cheltenham Racecourse on October 6 with the BBC’s Paul Martin in charge of the gavel.

Former town councillor Sue Poole was given the huge responsibility of buying for the much-loved hare and entered the bidding when it reached £2,000.

She said: “I had never bid in an auction ever, so to go and bid for something so important within the town with money collected by all sorts of people was very nerve-wracking. I burst into tears!

“We are absolutely thrilled to bits. A huge thank you to everyone who contributed, it meant we just had enough to bid for her which was wonderful.”

She declined to say exactly how much was spent but all profits go to the National Star charity to help people with disabilities and to support local historical projects in Cotswold towns.

Queenie was designed by Sue Steele with the help of other local artists and was covered in tiny mosaic pieces showing the popular landmarks of Malmesbury.

The hare will be owned by the town council on behalf of Malmesbury and will be put on display inside the town hall.

Cllr Julie Exton said: “We are all over the moon about it. It was such a special hare and so much work went into it by the local artists.

“It is brilliant that Queenie is coming back and that people in Malmesbury came together like often they do.

Mayor Wayne Jones said: “I think the way the community pulled together was a reflection on how well-received Queenie was. She has significance to us as a community.”