Step through the wardrobe to a winter wonderland at Bawdeswell

A winter wonderland bursting with presents, twinkling trees, candy canes and even a waterfall awaits visitors to a mid-Norfolk garden centre this Christmas.

Thousands of families are expected to explore the lavish grotto this year after stepping through an ordinary-looking wardrobe in the furniture department at Bawdeswell Garden Centre near Dereham.

The spectacle was lovingly created by manager Mark Newson over seven weeks and the wonderland, now in its third year, is even bigger and better than before.

'The days of putting a shed in the corner with a chap inside as santa are gone,' he said. 'We're having to put a lot more effort in to get people interested. It's been getting a lot of good comments, which is great.'

The display, divided into two magical rooms with a separate chalet for Father Christmas, attracted more than 2,000 visitors last year and is already proving extremely popular this time around.

Its opening was marked with a charity weekend on November 26 when �1,400 was raised for the RNLI and the Quidenham Children's Hospice.

The family-run garden centre, on the main Norwich to Fakenham road, is currently developing a new courtyard shopping area called Bluebell Square with ten stores and a market place.

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Mr Newson said the units had been snapped up by local traders and the shops, selling everything from home-made cakes and flowers to antiques, were due to open in March.

'There are a lot of talented people in this county who just want small units to sell their wares,' he added. 'The response has been amazing, particularly in these times.'

The winter wonderland is open daily up to and including Christmas Eve. Entry costs �5 per child.

For more details, click on www.bawdeswellgardencentre.co.uk or call 01362 688387.

As a special treat, real reindeer will be visiting the garden centre from 11am to 4pm today (Sunday).

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