ARTIST Margaret Slater has captured the heart of Christian communities by painting pictures of all the churches in a northern dale on eight goose eggs.

It took Margaret six months to complete her remarkable project, which involved the help of people in Weardale, County Durham.

On each of the eggs is printed a verse from a favourite hymn or part of a prayer chosen by each of the congregations at the eight churches in the dale.

Margaret, who runs the Weardale Art Group, in Frosterley, was inspired to paint the goose eggs as a millennium project following her success at painting a local scene on a goose egg earlier this year to win a Women's Institute competition.

The eggs are mounted on a table carved from a Weardale oak tree by local man Tom Farish.

Surrounding the table are minerals, such as fluorspar, and rocks taken from quarries in Weardale.

On top of the table is the crest of Bishop Thomas Hatfield, who was Bishop of Durham in the 1200s.

Margaret was helped with the project by Roger Norris, who is chapter librarian at Durham Cathedral.

"It's been a wonderful community effort," said Margaret. "I have had help from many people in the dale and from outside.

"I hope it demonstrates the close links villages in Weardale have with the various churches."

The eggs, given to her by Cyril Bell, of Wolsingham, were hard-boiled for two hours before Margaret started painting on them. They will last for years unless someone breaks the shells.

There are now plans to display Maragaret's work in either Frosterley or Stanhope churches before Christmas.