Record number of entries for Purbeck Christmas Tree Festival

It’s the season to be jolly at St George’s Church in Langton Matravers, where a festive winter wonderland of Christmas trees go on display for three days in aid of charity.

More than 500 visitors are expected to be welcomed into the historic church for the Purbeck Christmas Tree Festival, which is already setting a new record.

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The Purbeck Christmas Tree Festival is at St George’s Church in Langton Matravers

Preparation under way for the 2022 Christmas tree festival

Decorated in the most imaginative ways

The festival has been running for the past 12 years, although it did have to take a break for Covid, but has now recorded its highest number of trees being decorated for visitors, at 34.

Village groups, charities, sports clubs and businesses have been hard at work putting up Christmas trees and decorating them in the most imaginative ways possible and are hoping to raise as much as possible for two local charities.

Coastwatch, which helps prevent many tragedies along the Purbeck coast, will split the money raised with Mosaic, a Dorset charity which helps to support bereaved children across Dorset.

Festival organisers Colin and Sandy Garner say they always like to support a children’s charity and have been very impressed by the good work done by Mosaic in helping children to cope with their emotions after the death of a parent.

Langton villagers busy decorating the trees before the festival

Getting ready to welcome in hundreds of visitors over three days

“We always try to help a children’s charity”

Colin said:

“It will be the sixth year that we have run the festival in St George’s Church – it started off at Kingston Church, but there were problems getting trees up the hill and Sandy and I were asked if we would take over running it from a new venue.

“We said we would do it on the understanding that all the proceeds raised go to charity and we choose local and lesser known charities, and always try to pick a children’s charity.

“The festival is free to visit, but we have a donation box and sell tea, coffee and cakes and people have always been very generous, although we realise that this year with the cost of living crisis there is less money to go around.

“We raised £750 in the first year and that increased to nearly £1,000 the following year. Last year we managed to raise £1,600 for charity and it would be lovely to beat that this year.”

Organisers Colin and Sandy Garner hope for another record-breaking collection

Planning the festival started in August

Planning started for the festival in August and since the end of October Colin has been regularly stopped in the street to be asked questions about the latest festival.

It will run from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday 3rd, Sunday 4th and Monday 5th December 2022 with live entertainment and Christmas music every day.

On Saturday 3rd December 2022, the Swanage Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society will be helping people to write Christmas cards and will have a Victorian style postbox to put the finished cards into.

The Purbeck Recorder Ensemble will be playing at St George’s from 11 am, while Frable, a group of village friends who just love singing will be entertaining from 12.30 pm and the Purbeck U3A ukulele band play at 3 pm.

Judy Barnes and Gill Ford decorate the tree for Langton Matravers Village Hall

The tree for HPB Langton House in the village is finished

One visitor outstayed his welcome in 2021

On Sunday 4th December 2022, Ratties Acoustic Club, who are part of the Bournemouth Rat Pack, will entertain from 12.30 pm, and local youngsters Liv, Ruben and Martha will sing for visitors from 3 pm.

On Monday 5th December 2022 it will be the turn of the Mayday Singers to perform seasonal favourites on the last day of the festival from 12.30 pm.

Organisers are looking forward to welcoming as many visitors to St George’s Church as possible, with the exception of one from last year who outstayed his welcome.

COLIN GARNER

The Mouse That Loved Christmas – caught on webcam! See video below

Hungry church mouse became a Facebook star

Sandy recalled:

“We had a webcam in the church to record some of the events last year which was left on overnight and recorded a church mouse which paid special interest to a gingerbread decoration on one of the trees!

“We had to humanely catch him and evict him from the church into the grounds, but his antics have been uploaded onto our Facebook page where he’s become a real star!

“Word of the festival has now been spread by local groups as far away as Bournemouth and Dorchester and we had visitors from Portsmouth and Leicester last year who had been to the festival before and wanted to make it part of their build up to Christmas.

“It is a real community event with a wonderful atmosphere, and we even get visitors who are so impressed by the idea that they have since decided to run similar weekends in their own churches.”

One of the trees which has been decorated this year is for the occasion of Langton resident Doreen Selman’s 100th birthday, which falls on Tuesday 20th December 2022.

Happy birthday, Mum! Gillian Hardern with her labour of love

The tree features pictures of Doreen and her late husband Frank as well as messages from her family

Happy 100th birthday tree for Doreen

Daughter Gillian Hardern said:

“Mum has lived in the village ever since the war and she and dad, who taught in the local school, lived in a flat in the Rectory.

“We have decorated the tree with lots of messages from her grandchildren and although she finds it hard to leave her home much now, she’s going to be able to come to the church to see her own special tree!”

Local Brownies and Rainbows made a very bright Christmas tree

A brightly decorated tree from local Brownies and Rainbows

Swanage Greengage Community Garden at the Christmas Tree Festival at Langton Matravers

Reindeer and garden produce from the Swanage Greengage Community Garden

Judy Witt puts the finishing touches to her Prayer Tree

“I love baa baa black sheep”

An annual Prayer Tree was decorated this year by Judy Witt, who will invite visitors to write down their wishes and prayers for Christmas and hang them from the branches.

A booklet of all the prayers will be produced later in December; the 2021 edition was named after the prayer left by little Evelyn who wrote ‘I love baa baa black sheep, I love some donkeys and I love some larmers’.

In honour of Trevor Chadwick, who risked his life to save children from the Nazis

A tree to honour World War Two hero

Heroes Haven will again be supporting the festival and this year have decorated a tree for the Trevor Chadwick Trust, honouring the Swanage Latin teacher and volunteer member of the Swanage Lifeboat crew who became one of the country’s most amazing unsung heroes.

With Europe on the brink of war in 1939, Trevor volunteered to rescue children in Prague who were threatened by an impending German occupation, either because they were Jewish or the sons and daughters of families who decried the Nazis.

A sculpture in his memory, made by Langton Matravers artist Moira Purver, was unveiled in August 2022 next to a children’s park, now called the Chadwick Playground, on the Recreation Ground near Swanage seafront, to finally honour his achievements.

Star of the show – detail from the Isle of Purbeck Arts Club tree

Purbeck Craft Group have hung their tree with beautiful hand made decorations

A nautical Christmas tree from the RNLI

Second festival at Emmanuel Baptist Church

A second Christmas tree festival will be held at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Swanage from Thursday 8th to Saturday 10th December 2022 from 10 am to 6 pm daily.

The theme for 2022 is Christmas Songs, and donations from the event will go to Swanage Lifeboat and the Swanage Food Bank. There will be a full programme of entertainment each day:

  • Thursday 8th December – Entertainment includes Harmony Rocks, the Zaphyrae wind instrument trio, the Singing for Pleasure Choir and Karen G
  • Friday 9th December – Entertainment includes the Drum Circle, Local Vocals, the Belvedere Singers and the Handbells Group
  • Saturday 10th December – Entertainment includes Ukulele Band, Sandra and Anne, and the Allsort’d Singers
Emmanuel Baptist Church tree festival 2019

The Emmanuel Baptist Church in Swanage last held its Christmas tree festival in 2019

Watch the church mouse at the Purbeck Christmas Tree Festival in 2021

Further information

  • More about the Christmas tree festivals is on the Emmanuel Baptist Church website

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