Visiting Santa in his magic grotto

Three year old Jack McCulley meeting Father Christmas in the Friends of Houghton Rectory Park grotto.
Three year old Jack McCulley meeting Father Christmas in the Friends of Houghton Rectory Park grotto.
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HUNDREDS of youngsters got the chance to tell Santa Claus what they want in their stocking this Christmas morning as they paid a visit to his grotto.

The warden’s office at the Tithe Barn in Rectory Park, Houghton, was transformed into a winter wonderland for excited children by the Friends of Rectory Park.

People from around the area and as far afield as Alnwick in Northumberland journeyed to the site after a hugely successful grotto was created in 2011.

It will be back open on Saturday for the final time this year before Christmas.

The delighted youngsters were given selection boxes and satsumas from Santa, played by John Ellis, husband of Houghton councillor Sheila Ellis.

About 1,000 people altogether are thought to have come along to the festive extravaganza.

Treasurer of the Friends group, Edith Corney, said: “We’ve been absolutely crammed, busting to the gills.

“We are Houghton people and we had gone around the streets letting people know it would be busy beforehand.

“It’s a shame that we had to turn people away because we were just so busy, but many of them said they understood and want to come back next week.”

Those children who had to wait in line passed the time by colouring in festive pictures, while parents were kept warm with mugs of tea and coffee.

The grotto will be open again this Saturday in the park, from 11am to 4pm, with a charge of £1 for each child to see Santa.

Meanwhile singing superstar Joe McElderry lit up Durham City when he switched on the Christmas lights at the weekend.

The 2009 X Factor champ, from South Shield,s singer flicked the switch on hundreds of dazzling bulbs as hundreds gathered in the Market Place to start the countdown to Christmas.

He was joined by children’s favourite characters the ZingZillas and CBeebies presenter Alex Winters.

The 21-year-old star said: “It has been a lot of fun visiting Durham to switch on the Christmas lights. It is always lovely to be back in the North East as everybody is so welcoming.

“it has certainly helped get me into the Christmas spirit.”

Twitter: @davidallison88