Dickleburgh Christmas tree festival to open

Tinsel, baubles, twinkling lights and the wafting scent of pine trees will fill a south Norfolk church in the run-up to Christmas.

For the seventh year, the 15th century Dickleburgh Church, near Diss, will be hosting one of Norfolk's largest charitable Christmas tree festivals.

Named 50 Christmas Trees in a Church, it will be full of festive trees decorated by local businesses and organisations, including schools, care homes, amateur dramatic societies and branches of the Royal British Legion.

The extravaganza, which attracted almost 3,000 visitors last year, will be officially opened today at 5pm by the Rt Rev Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford. The festival will then run until 4pm on December 12.

The opening will also include a performance of Rwandan Christmas Carols by Illuminee Nganemariya and the Benefice Choir.

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Ms Nganemariya, who now lives in Norwich, is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and wrote about her experiences in the book Miracle in Kigali. She has also decorated a Christmas tree for the event.

Organiser Rev Norman Steer said her story was a modern day miracle which should be remembered at this time of year.

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Mr Steer added: 'I'm quite excited. People who come along will not be disappointed. In this day and age where people are thinking about themselves, the people here are not. They are thinking about others. We talk about wanting a big community and here we have one. The community has come together and they are helping each other.'

The festival has a special theme this year based on the positioning of the planets and stars above Bethlehem on the night of the birth of Jesus.

When visitors walk down the nave and look up, they will see the ceiling lit up by stars with planets and angels hanging down.

They will also be treated to daily visits from Father Christmas, and light lunches and teas will be served in the adjacent Dickleburgh Church Rooms.

An all day breakfast will be on offer on December 11, as well as Sunday lunches on all Sundays.

Many of the participating organisations are hoping their festive entry will win over the visitors' vote for the best tree and be in the running for the Nick Arnull Plate given to the most innovative design.

Money raised by visitor admission fees is expected to raise hundreds of pounds for Connects & Co, a Norwich-based charity supporting young carers, and the parish churches that comprise the Benefice of Dickleburgh and the Pulhams, including Rushall, Starston, Thelveton, Shimpling and Frenze.

Entry costs �3.50 per adult, �3 per senior citizen or concession, �2.75 for pre-booked groups and children are free. The church will open daily from 10am to 7pm.

For more information, visit www.50christmastrees.com

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