Fakenham Christmas Tree Festival opens today

Doreen Smith setting up the Fakenham Christmas Tree festival at the Parish Church. Picture: Ian Burt

Doreen Smith setting up the Fakenham Christmas Tree festival at the Parish Church. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

More than 20,000 people are expected to visit Fakenham's Christmas Tree Festival, which opens today.

More than 70 trees have brought a blaze of colour to the inside of the towering Parish Church.

They have been decorated by groups including a charity which helps families in debt around Fakenham, Wells lifeboat and volunter coastwatch, and people raising money in memory of lost loved ones.

Last year's event raised more than £18,000 - mostly in small change donated by visitors. 'The most we've ever raised over the eight days is more than £40,000,' said church warden Roger Burbidge. Money collected by the trees all goes to the charities. Mr Burbidge added trees for the event were all donated by Fakenham Garden Centre.

'They're generous beyond a fault,' he said. 'It's a real boost, it makes a huge difference to the charities.'

One tree has been decorated in aid of Cancer Research in memory of Gill Tyler, a teacher at Litcham High School.

'Gill was a beautiful lady and a gifted maths teacher who worked at Litcham High School where we met and fell in love,' writes her husband Bill. 'We had been together only four years when she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.'

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The couple married at Holkham, in February 2007. Mrs Tyler died, aged 48, just four months later.

'I would have given anything to have had a few more years with Gill,' adds Mr Tyler. 'So maybe if you can spare a few quid, you will be giving people you'll never know a chance to be with their loved one for a little longer.'

Another tree has been decorated for the Fakenham CAP Debt Centre, which has helped 46 families in and around the town since it was set up two years ago.

It carries stories of some of those who have been helped by its counsellors.

'CAP has given me back my husband, my family, my life and my faith,' one woman writes. Another adds: 'When I called CAP, the burden just lifted.'

Donations made during the festival will help buy food Christmas hampers for neeedy families in and around Fakenham.

A tree decorated by children in Quidenham Hospice is raising money for the East Anglia Children's Hospices nook appeal, to build a new hospice at Framingham Earl, near Norwich.

The Coastal Greyhound Trust's tree is raising money to help care for and rehome retired greyhounds.

A tree decorated by the Parish Church is helping to raise money towards its new £28,000 sound system.

There will also be a Christmas bazaar, refreshments, tombola and a grand draw.

The festival runs from today until Thursday, December 10. It's open from 10am - 8pm daily, except Sunday when it's open from 12-noon - 8pm.

Christmas services in the church include carols by candlelight on Sunday, December 20 (6.30pm), Christingle services at 3.30pm and 5.30pm on Christmas Eve, followed by midnight communion (11.30pm).

There will be holy communion at 8am on Christmas Day, and family communion at 10.30am.