THOUSANDS have gathered in the centre of town to witness a spectacle of lights as Ulverston Lantern Festival returned. 

Marking its 40th anniversary, this year's theme was Into the Garden, where volunteers displayed beautiful lantern-shaped creations around town.

Blooming flowers, graceful butterflies, snails, mushrooms, and other flying objects were among hundreds of lanterns paraded through Ulverston.

The four rivers of light started flowing into town at around 7.15pm and the procession gathered on County Square, outside The Coro at around 8pm. 

To finish the event crowds flocked to Ford Park to enjoy a performance from the samba drumming collective Drum Nation and a firework finale a few minutes past 9pm.

The Mail: Nicola Loftus with her mushroom lantern.Nicola Loftus with her mushroom lantern. (Image: Filipa Gaspar, Newsquest)

Nicola Loftus from Barrow built her mushroom lantern which took a few hours to make.

She said: "It was in with the theme and we like mushrooms so we decided to make it.

"We came last year and it was really fun so we thought we would give it a go again this year."

Gary Lindhofer, 37, from Ulverston built a special hedgehog-inspired lantern due to his daughter's love for the animal.

He said: "She asked me to make a hedgehog so how could I refuse? It took me a week of evenings to make. 

"It is the third year that I have been to it, and it is getting better and better."

The Mail: Gary Lindhofer with his hedgehog lantern.Gary Lindhofer with his hedgehog lantern. (Image: Filipa Gaspar, Newsquest)

Visiting from York, Ela, 70, attended the festival for the first time.

She said: "It is absolutely delightful. I think the atmosphere is wonderful, and it is for people of all ages. We live in such a technological age, and this is very natural. There is a wonderful spirit abroad."

Linda Harris, 78, from Ulverston said: "Every year it gets better and better, and I think people just enjoy the experience of it and coming together before the winter months. They are very creative with what they do and a lot of thought goes into it. Me and my grandchildren used to do it whatever theme it was and it was a nice experience."

Chair of Ulverston Lantern Festival Christopher Nelson said this year's festival had 'more people' than the previous year.

He said: "It is immensely successful again. We are probably talking about at least 8,000 people on the streets and more than a thousand in the procession.

" We have sold out all the lantern kits. There has been a fantastic response from people who want to create their lanterns, join the event and have a wonderful family evening. 

"It is the biggest night of the year for Ulverston and Europe's largest event of its kind. We have generations of families who come to the festival to make lanterns and join the procession, and it is great to see that community spirit driving forward because everyone who does it is a volunteer.

"All the people who take part really put their hearts and soul into creating the lanterns and making it into a fantastic night."