Santa makes waves at Wells Christmas Tide festival

Never mind the reindeer – when Santa's port of a call is a north Norfolk harbour town, there's only one way to arrive in style.

The star guest at the annual Wells Christmas Tide festival journeyed by motorboat from the North Pole before mooring up at the quayside on Saturday evening.

And he was given a spectacular welcome, with a seasonal songs ringing out across the water and a firework display lighting up the harbour, watched by a crowd of families wrapped up against the chill of winter.

After stepping onto the pontoon in traditional garb, Father Christmas proclaimed: 'It is absolutely wonderful to be back in Wells. I have been looking forward to this all year long to see all your happy, smiling, and slightly frozen faces.'

Like all nautical visitors to Wells, Santa's arrival at the port was overseen by harbour master Robert Smith, who urged the waiting children to guide the magical vessel in with a concerted shout of 'We want Santa'.

Among the hundreds of watchers were the bearers of the colourful lanterns which illuminated a procession of fire-eaters, drummers and festive characters which paraded down Staithe Street to await Santa's appearance.

After meeting children on the quay, Santa walked to the Granary Theatre to meet up with Mrs Claus in his grotto.

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Earlier in the day, a roving nativity throughout the town saw Mary and Joseph acting out the Christmas story in outfits which struck a stark contrast with their wintry setting on a snowy and slushy Buttlands.

There were also troupes of wandering carol singers and performance by pupils from Wells Primary School.

Patrick Weston, of the Wells Carnival Committee, said: 'Despite the adverse conditions, Wells has still managed to put on an incredible festive show.

'The numbers are slightly down this year due to the weather, but the atmosphere has more than made up for that.

'The decorations look fantastic and there have been lots of shoppers in the shops and craft stalls, so it is a big thank you to all our visitors and townsfolk.'

Before the quayside spectacle unfolded, rumours circulated in the town that the tide and weather conditions might force Santa to make a more conventional arrival by car.

But Mr Weston said: 'There was never a question of that. When the Wells Carnival Committee decide to do something we don't cancel it – and a boat was the only way Santa could get here from the North Pole to meet all the children.'