Christmas arrives at country park in festive fundraiser

114269-1087 XMAS QECP SANTAS (RS) MRW 4/12/2011''// all pix taken at The QECP for what is The Annual Santa Stroll to benefit The Rowans Hospice at Purbrook - MRW // ''Ho, Ho, Ho, lots of times over !!!! as some of the 'Santas' make their way through the woods ''Pictures: Malcolm Wells (114269-1087)
114269-1087 XMAS QECP SANTAS (RS) MRW 4/12/2011''// all pix taken at The QECP for what is The Annual Santa Stroll to benefit The Rowans Hospice at Purbrook - MRW // ''Ho, Ho, Ho, lots of times over !!!! as some of the 'Santas' make their way through the woods ''Pictures: Malcolm Wells (114269-1087)
Black Star Riders: from left, Scott Gorham, Chad Szeliga, Ricky Warwick,  Robbie Crane and Damon Johnson.  Picture by Richard Stow

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IT’S not every day you come across hundreds of Santas marching through the middle of a park.

But yesterday morning that was exactly what happened as the annual Santa Stroll took place at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield, to raise money for the Rowans Hospice.

More than 250 people took part in the event.

Ruth White, chief executive of the Rowans Hospice, said: ‘Many of the people are walking because they know people who died at the hospice.

‘They are walking with their families and their dogs to remember those who died and thinking of Christmas as well. It’s doing something that is really fun but also quite symbolic for families.

‘This is for all the families and their four-legged friends. There are some wonderful dogs dressed up which is fantastic. It’s gone fabulously.’

And Ruth said that the hospice had had a huge number of people wanting to take part this year.

‘It’s absolutely amazing,’ she said. ‘This year Christmas has suddenly come upon us and people want to get into the spirit.

‘It’s great for the children too, it’s something really special for them.’

Toni Ayling, 36, brought along her 14-year-old daughter Daisy with her partner Gary Shuker, 42, and daughter Mollie, 12, from North End.

Gary’s dad Robert was cared for at The Rowans Hospice before he died from an asbestos-related disease three years ago.

Toni, said: ‘They do really good work. This is really good, we are going to do it every year.

‘And we’re going to get new costumes next year and try and jazz it up a bit.

‘It gets the family together and it’s a good day out.’

Daisy added: ‘No-one really knows what the Rowans does to be honest, unless you have been in that situation. Dressing up and having fun takes the sadness out of it.’