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Jim Harding on Fakenham’s upcoming events including Christmas Tree Festival and jump racing season

In his weekly Wensum Column, Jim Harding discusses the work that goes into planning some of Fakenham’s most popular events.

It may come as a surprise to many readers that our annual Christmas Tree Festival takes the best part of a year to organise. So it’s fairly early in the new year, following the last event, that the church committee gets together to sort out its plans. Regular meetings take place every week in church on market days when the place is buzzing with activity.

Thanks – or no thanks – to Covid, desperation measures to attempt a ‘Virtual Festival’ were tried three years back, but this could hardly compare to the real thing.

Fakenham's Christmas Tree Festival will start November 30 (Picture: Jim Harding)
Fakenham's Christmas Tree Festival will start November 30 (Picture: Jim Harding)

Not surprisingly, the money raised was well down on the usual takings for both the charities and the church.

In 2021, the only hiccup concerned the late arrival of the trees themselves from the port of Felixstowe. It meant that their delivery and positioning in the church, not to mention decoration, was a somewhat last-minute affair. Somehow, the volunteers took charge and worked late into the evening before opening day to make sure the display would be ready and it was all systems go again, despite the numbers taking part being slightly down.

Look East gave us coverage on the television and the opening evening was graced by the presence of the Bishop of Lynn, the Venerable Dr Jane Steen.

Last year, we were more or less back to normal. Some fifty charities took part, each of them decorating their own trees, generously provided free as usual by Fakenham Garden Centre, and over £30,000 was raised.

This year, the festival will be open from Thursday, November 30 until the following Thursday, December 7. The doors are open from 10am until 8pm and entrance is free. There will be a midday start on the Sunday to allow for a festival service.

All the charities provide details of their work and encourage visitors to drop coins into their collection buckets - which are emptied at the end of every day. There are various Christmas market stalls, a raffle and a tombola, with refreshments available until 7pm each day. Regular pauses are made for brief prayers and a few moments of relative quiet. Festival details may be found prior to opening week at:

www.christmastreefestival.org.uk or www.fakenhamparishchurch.org.uk

Fakenham’s jump racing season got off to a wretched start in October. The first meeting was abandoned in advance due to waterlogged ground and the second was called off following an incident in the opening race. Two horses slipped and fell when on the same bend of the track and after an inspection by stewards and the two jockeys concerned it was decided that the going was unsafe and no further races should be held that afternoon – neither horses nor riders were injured.

Thankfully, an additional meeting was arranged and despite early morning rain and a strong wind, this went ahead successfully. The next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, November 21, and is sponsored by Greene King, with the first race due off at 12.20pm.

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