Magical Christmas Tree Festival returns to Fareham for its 15th year

The Fareham Flyers WI group - from left, Wendy Bundy, Kathleen Wood, Pam Linzey, with Chris Curtis, Janice Sargent and Elizabeth Wilcock ''Picture:  Malcolm Wells (151202-2463)
The Fareham Flyers WI group - from left, Wendy Bundy, Kathleen Wood, Pam Linzey, with Chris Curtis, Janice Sargent and Elizabeth Wilcock ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (151202-2463)
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Twinkling fairy lights are nestled among evergreen branches, while bright baubles of all shapes and sizes dangle gloriously.

Christmas music plays softly in the background, as mince pies are served by happy volunteers in Santa hats who have come out to spread a little yuletide cheer.

Festival organisers Alan and Janice Sargent Picture: Malcolm Wells (151202-2457)

Festival organisers Alan and Janice Sargent Picture: Malcolm Wells (151202-2457)

All this merriment means the festive feeling has landed at Fareham Methodist Church in King’s Road.

Its magical Christmas Tree Festival has returned to its hall for its 15th consecutive year.

This year, 22 trees have been lovingly designed and decorated by different community groups from across the town, all to raise money for their chosen charities.

Organisers Janice and Alan Sargent, from Fareham, have been busy setting the scene in the church hall.

‘It’s great because it is local,’ says Janice.

‘We are supporting at least 20 different charities, which are mostly from the local area, such as the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, the Wessex Haven and the Rainbow Centre.

‘There’s also seven WIs taking part, and that brings a little competition to the festival.’

The festival is ultimately a competition to win the money made from the entrance fee and donations collected over its three days.

This money is then donated to charity, although every tree that enters is guaranteed a share.

Visitors wander among the trees, which all have different themes and designs, and vote for their favourite.

The trees are also judged by three representatives from the Methodist church.

There’s also a separate WI category as it’s become such a popular event for the WIs.

And it all culminates with a prize-giving ceremony, held on Saturday at 3pm, followed by carol singing.

Janice explains: ‘This year there will be £50 given to the tree of the church, then there will be two other prizes of £25 for the people’s choice.

‘Plus all the trees get a share of whatever donations are made and from the entrance fee.

‘Last year they all made about £50, so we’re hoping for more this year.

‘It is fair so however small the group or charity is, they all get a donation.’

Anybody of any age can enter a tree, with some people creating a tree on their own for their chosen charities.

This year there are knitted designs, hand-crafted baubles, crackers – anything goes. From bees to butterflies, and even trains and planes, each group has picked its own theme.

Janice says: ‘It’s really nice to see all the different Christmas trees and their designs.

‘It’s people working together in teams, and some have been working for months on their trees.

‘It’s local people raising money for local charities.’

People can visit the festival over three days, which started yesterday.

There are 22 trees on display, with some highlighted in the panels below and opposite.

The church hall, on the corner of Queen’s Road, is open from 10am until 5pm today and 10am and 4pm tomorrow. It costs £2 to enter, which includes a vote, a mince pie and a hot drink.