One of the biggest Christmas tree festivals in the country opens in Suffolk

Trees in the church Picture: Judy Eden

Trees in the church Picture: Judy Eden - Credit: Judy Eden

Stowmarket Christmas Tree Festival attracted over 32,000 visitors last year.

Trees in the church Picture: Judy Eden

Trees in the church Picture: Judy Eden - Credit: Judy Eden

The 2019 Stowmarket Christmas Tree Festival, one of the biggest events of its kind in the country, is now open.

The lights of this year's festival were officially switched on last Friday by children's author Nick Butterworth and the event will be open to the public until Saturday, January 4.

This year marks the 15th festival and organisers are promising it will be the biggest one yet, with decorated trees on display across four venues within walking distance of each other in the town.

Trees will be on display at St Peter and St Mary's Church, Abbott's Hall at the Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket Library and - for the first time - Red Gables garden.

In the church alone, there will be a record 413 trees to see. The church bell ringers have put bell rope on their tree rather than tinsel and the town's flower club have decorated their tree with flowers made out of ribbon, for example.

Lots interpret the Christmas story, including one which has a Joseph the carpenter theme with wood shavings on it.

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One of the quirkier ones is a tree with model cats climbing it alongside broken decorations.

Recycling is the theme of some of the trees, which feature home-made decorations.

There's also a programme of events taking place throughout the festival, including concerts, a Christmas lecture, a children's quiz, special services and school performances.

Drinks, mince pies and Christmas presents will be available to buy in the church throughout the festival.

At Abbot's Hall, the house in the grounds of the Museum of East Anglian Life, trees have been decorated in 'The Farm at Christmas' theme.

In the library, local groups and organisations have decorated 15 trees in the theme of Christmas songs.

Meanwhile, trees in the Red Gables garden have been decorated by groups linked to the wellbeing hub in the theme 'The Holly and the Ivy'.

The grounds are open all day, but if you visit when the sun has gone down make sure you take a torch. The lights will be switched off mid-evening.

"The whole community works together, which is great for the town," said festival coordinator Judy Eden.

"Thank you to everyone who has been involved in buying and decorating trees and to the Mid Suffolk District Councillors who have used some of their budget to help fund it.

"Christmas is exciting and worth celebrating so why not come and see our celebrations in Stowmarket?

"Come and see not just the church but the four venues, because they are completely different."

Stowmarket Christmas Tree Festival began in 2005 with 80 trees in St Peter and St Mary's Church and has grown to become one of the region's major winter attractions and one of the biggest Christmas tree festivals in the country. Last year, it attracted more than 32,000 visitors.

Local residents and visitors from further afield come to visit the festival. Coach parties are welcome.

Pre-schools, schools and care homes arrange visits to the event and local families make a trip to the festival part of their annual Christmas traditions.

Entry is free, but donations are welcome.

For more information on this year's Stowmarket Christmas Tree Festival, go to www.stowmarketparishchurch.co.uk

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