Santa’s Magical Journey trips the light fantastic at Thursford

Fantasy Land is opened up fror Christmas at the Thursford Collection. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Fantasy Land is opened up fror Christmas at the Thursford Collection. Picture: Matthew Usher.

On a miserable old, cloudy old, rainy old day, the sparkle lifts your spirits as soon as you step inside a fantasy land.

While you might think Father Christmas hails from Lapland or the North Pole, he's got a second home right in the middle of Norfolk.

Now Thursford has opened Santa's Magical Journey, where a cast of characters lead you to meet the man in red himself.

'It's a magical journey, it's all animated, everything's moving to inspire children,' said manager George Cushing, as a cast of colourful characters give way to a frostier winter scene with seals, polar bears and penguins.

'The whole North Pole is buzzing with excitement,' says one of the elves.

Around another corner, you catch a whiff of caramel, as Mother Bear rustles up muffins in the kitchen. Dancing penguins strut their stuff.

Then the elves take over, an army of them making toys and decorations, and wrapping presents using a giant threshing machine which once worked the nearby fields.

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When Santa is in residence, younger visitors get shown into his parlour to receive a gift. Mr Cushing expects to get through 15,000 of them this year.

Then it's time for a spectacular 4D cinema performance.

'It's a whole interactive experience,' said Mr Cushing. 'There's wind, bubbles, snow, smoke, lighting all around you.'

Like everything else at Thursford, they don't do things by halves. More than 45,000 came to see the neighbouring Christmas Spectacular in its first two weeks, thrilling to the dazzling three-hour extravaganza of music, song and dance.

Mr Cushing's brother Charlie, the attraction's operations manager and events co-ordinator, said: 'We live Christmas all year round, for us the joy is seeing people's faces when they come through here.'

All this began almost 40 years ago when the brothers' father, John Cushing, staged a carol concert in a cowshed.

Now Christmas wouldn't be Christmas for tens of thousands of people without a visit to Thursford, near Fakenham, which has been named among the country's top five seasonal extravaganzas alongside Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland and Hogwarts In The Snow.

Santa's Magical Journey is open is open (9.30am - 6pm) on Saturday December 12, Sunday, December 13 and from Friday, December 18 - Wednesday, December 23.

To book, go online to www.thursford.com or call 01328 878477.