THERE are some things that even Santa can't plan for, as he discovered last Saturday when one of the Westons dray horses went lame before the switch-on of Ledbury's Christmas lights.

Father Christmas was to have arrived at the Market House in a horse-drawn dray, but in the end he arrived in a people carrier trailer, pulled by tractor, also supplied by Westons.

He was then free to hands out sweets to the gathered youngsters, before handing out presents in the panelled room of the Ledbury Town Council offices.

By 4pm, as a chilly November darkness settled in, one of the largest crowds in recent times gathered by the Market House for a wide range of festive entertainment, including Morris Dancing with the Silurian Border Morris Men, modern dance displays from the youngsters of the Ledbury Dance Company, and rousing performances from the Ledbury Community Choir and Ledbury Community Brass Band, who frequently accompanied each other.

Meanwhile, members of Ledbury Amateur Dramatic Society mingled with the crowds in pantomime costume, to promote their forthcoming production of Jack and the Beanstalk.

One Community Police Officer remarked that there had to be at least 2000 people gathered in the High Street by 4.30pm, one hour before the actual switch-on.

Cllr Annette Crowe, a member of the town's Christmas Lights Committee said: "Wasn't there a crowd! I think it's the most I've seen for quite a while.

"It was very successful. This is the way Ledbury does Christmas lights."

Many members of the crowd remarked on the musical excellence of both the choir and the brass band, and how they were an asset and a credit to the town of Ledbury.

Ledbury's mayor, Elaine Fieldhouse said: "I just want to thank everyone who joined in a contributed to a lovely community event, involving a lot of community organisations, including Ledbury Rotary Club who were the marshals, the traders who sponsored the Christmas tree and helped on the day and Joined Up Heritage, who did community lantern-making in the Market House.

"Everyone pulled together, and that is what it's all about."

All pics by Gary Bills-Geddes