I've sent the Queen a card to say: 'We shall miss you at Sandringham.'
- Credit: Ian Burt
Thousands brave the cold each Christmas for what has become a much-loved Norfolk tradition.
But the grounds at Sandringham will be deserted on December 25 because the Queen has cancelled her festive family gathering.
For the first time in three decades, the monarch and her extended family will not be spending Christmas on the Royal Estate.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had decided to spend Christmas quietly in Windsor.
The couple normally host their large family at Sandringham over the holidays and are greeted by thousands as they attend church on Christmas Day.
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Among them every year since 1988, when the family moved their celebration from Windsor Castle to Norfolk, has been Mary Relph.
Now in her 80s, the retired van driver's fascination with all things Royal began with a trip to the Sandringham Flower Show as a 10-year-old girl, when she spoke to the late Queen Mother.
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Since then, she has been a regular sight at the Sandringham Flower Show and outside church when the Queen attends services at different churches on the estate.
"I think she's made the right decision not to come," she said. "You've only got to look at all those thousands of people who go there, including me.
"You can't really blame the Queen, you don't know who's about in the crowd do you."
Mrs Relph has developed a rapport with the Royals since her childhood visits to the flower show, which the Queen Mother attended every summer.
"I used to go to see the Queen Mother at the flower show for years and years," she said. "She was a lovely old lady, she always used to come and have a chat with you."
One cold day at Sandringham a couple of winters back, Mrs Relph was scolded by the Queen when she saw her outside church. The monarch asked her what she was doing out on such a freezing day after her recent illness.
"She was always concerned about how I was," said Mrs Relph. "She knew I'd had an operation and when I went to West Newton, she asked me: '
This year, she will be spending Christmas at her home near Downham Market, which is filled with Royal memorabilia, instead of standing outside in the cold hoping to catch a glimpse and a quick word with the Queen.
"I just love going to see them all," she said. "I've had a lot of pleasure running around after the Queen at Balmoral, Windsor and Sandringham over the years.
"Camilla was always very friendly with me so I've sent her a card. I've sent the Queen one too, saying we shall miss you at Sandringham this year."
It is understood the Queen will not be attending church on Christmas Day to avoid large crowds of well-wishers gathering.
Other members of her family will be spending Christmas at their homes.
It is not known whether the Queen will come to Sandringham after Christmas to spend her accession day, February 6, in Norfolk, in honour of her father King George VI who passed away at Sandringham in 1953.