Camels spotted walking through Leigh Park as church launches debut Christmas festival

THREE kings of Orient they are not – but their journey brought the spirit of Christmas to life for scores of families.

Jaws dropped yesterday as a trio of community figures rode camels through the heart of Leigh Park

The camels and their riders Nicky Parker, Lisa Dunning and Lisa Moore set off. Picture: Keith Woodland

The camels and their riders Nicky Parker, Lisa Dunning and Lisa Moore set off. Picture: Keith Woodland

The stunt marked an offbeat launch to the first Starlight Festival at St Francis’ Church in Riders Lane. 

A resident of the Havant suburb for more than 20 years, carer and mother-of-four Nicky Parker was one of three lucky riders picked to lead the procession. 

‘This isn’t something you get to do everyday – I’d say it’s the opportunity of a lifetime,' the 43-year-old said. 

‘I’ve lived in Leigh Park for more than 20 years and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. 

Beryl Jones and Nancy-Mae Wright cut the ribbon to open the Starlight Festival. Picture: Keith Woodland

Beryl Jones and Nancy-Mae Wright cut the ribbon to open the Starlight Festival. Picture: Keith Woodland

‘It’s events like this today – and the fireworks [at Stockheath Common] in November, which Leigh Park paid for – that prove what a fantastic community this is.’ 

Mounting the two other camels were Riders Junior School headteacher Lisa Dunning and PCSO Lisa Moore, who ‘thought she was at the festival for routine community engagement’.

Her colleague, PCSO Sharon Sadler, said: ‘She’s one of the neighbourhood officers at Havant and it’s her birthday today, so we thought it would be good fun for her to be doing something different. 

‘She had absolutely no clue she would be doing this and she turned up here in full uniform.’ 

Nancy-Mae Wright with her mum, Sara. Picture: Byron Melton

Nancy-Mae Wright with her mum, Sara. Picture: Byron Melton

The camels, which belong to Warwickshire firm Joseph’s Amazing Camels and have previously starred in film and television, formed a procession to the Greywell Shopping Centre before returning to the church. 

There, hundreds of residents enjoyed festive stalls in aid of a number of good causes – including the food poverty-fighting Munch project, which runs at Park Community School. 

Eight-year-old Nancy-Mae Wright ran a stall selling festive trinkets she has made herself, with all proceeds going to the PO9 food bank which runs from the church. 

‘I wanted to do something to make people feel happy and have a great time, this is a lot of fun,' she said. 

Father and Mother Christmas with some of their helpers. Picture: Keith Woodland

Father and Mother Christmas with some of their helpers. Picture: Keith Woodland

‘The food bank is so important because it helps others who don’t have much at Christmas.’

Reverend Jonathan Jeffrey, vicar of Leigh Park and Warren Park, said: ‘The Starlight Festival is all part of our offer to the community to say “you deserve the very best”.' 

Pupils and staff from Park Community School selling biscuits to raise funds for the Munch programme. Picture: Keith Woodland

Pupils and staff from Park Community School selling biscuits to raise funds for the Munch programme. Picture: Keith Woodland