Illuminations by the sea start Christmas in Sidmouth  

Connaught@Christmas promises to be the perfect way to launch Christmas celebrations

Connaught@Christmas promises to be the perfect way to launch Christmas celebrations - Credit: Sue Cade

Tickets have just gone on sale for a magical illuminated experience at Connaught Gardens high above the sea at Sidmouth this December.

Connaught@Christmas promises to be the perfect way to launch Christmas celebrations, giving friends and families a chance to get together and enjoy a festive combination of lights, food and drink, plus the chance to buy locally made gifts.

The spectacle is being put together by event manager John Radford who grew up in Sidmouth and knows the gardens well. He said: “We are all hoping that Christmas 2021 will be a chance to appreciate time together and get back into the true spirit of the season, which we missed so much last year, and this is going to provide a wonderful way to start it off.”

From December 7 to 12 between the hours of 4.30 and 9.30pm, visitors can delight in a beautifully lit walk through the gardens - with several seasonal features to look out for and live music on the bandstand. With around 1,000 visitors expected each night, bookings will receive a specified time slot to help avoid overcrowding, giving everyone plenty of space to appreciate the experience.

“All paths are paved so no wellies will be needed – and while the gardens have a number of steps we’ve devised a special route whereby wheelchair users can view over 90 percent of the illuminations,” John explained.

Suitable for all the family, tickets have been priced to make this an affordable experience. Individual tickets cost £5 for children, £8 for adults with a family ticket for £22. There’s free entry for the under 3s. Parking is available in local car parks including Manor Road car park opposite Connaught Gardens, which is also home for the event’s Christmas Food & Craft Village.

With indoor and outdoor seating the Village is the ideal destination to sample locally produced food and drink. For anyone looking for gift ideas, the craft area offers a range of locally made gifts, with activities for children such as pottery painting and wreath making on hand to give parents time to browse or to chat with friends. Laura Mead who is coordinating the Village, said:

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“As there’s no charge to visit the food and craft village people can come back as many times as they wish, either to look for gifts or to try great food and a seasonal drink in the festively decorated marquee. We’re delighted to be championing lots of wonderful produce and crafts from Sidmouth and East Devon.”

The growing list of traders includes Samphire Jewellery, Beach House Botanics, Something Lovely Pottery, Ebb Tides, Jurassic Soap Kitchen, Pinnacle Icing and Angelchops cakes, plus street food and drink vendors Global Street Kitchen, Buono Pizza, Westcountry Dimsum, New Devon Brewing and Ventons Cyder. 

John believes the illuminations will draw more visitors than ever to Sidmouth to enjoy the wonderful seaside location out of season. “Connaught Gardens is the perfect place to stage this event, with the added attraction of the dramatic winter coastline. If Connaught@Christmas is as successful as early responses indicate it could become an annual event, putting Sidmouth firmly on the map as a pre-Christmas destination.”

As event manager, John has top credentials; he’s been involved with the Folk Festival for over 10 years as well as the Hay Festival, Ottery Tar Barrels and Underneath the Stars Festival. Using a locally-based team to organise and co-ordinate Connaught@Christmas he will be calling on his many connections in the events sector to ensure it’s a hit with visitors of all ages.

In the spirit of giving, a percentage of profits from the event has been pledged to the independent, self-funded Sidmouth Lifeboat, which covers an area of approximately 150 square miles of sea between Axmouth and Budleigh Salterton. This year for the first time, the organisation - together with EDDC - provided a lifeguard service on busy Sidmouth beaches.

To find out more and book a slot, visit: https://connaught-at-christmas.co.uk/

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