Soaring Santa swaps reindeer for plane

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Father Christmas will be ditching the reindeer and flying in by aeroplane for the Northumberland Christmas Craft Fair at Doxford Barns next weekend.

Santa, sometimes known in these parts as Steve Clairhough, is also an experienced pilot instructor and farmer at Bockenfield, near Felton. The Christmas Fair is being organised by the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), a welfare charity that supports farmers in financial difficulties.

This year, RABI has given out grants of around £1.4million, helping more than 1,200 individuals and families. More than £30,000 has been given out in Northumberland alone.

The charity helps working farmers, farm-workers and their families who rely on agriculture for their main source of income, as well as retired farmers, farm-workers and their dependants who have spent at least 10 years in the industry.

Support is offered in confidence to people of all ages, and includes one-off, emergency or regular payments, as well as the provision of essential household items and disability equipment.

For working farmers, RABI can also fund relief farm staff to help in a crisis and training through its Gateway scheme.

There will be more than 30 stalls at the Doxford Barns Christmas Fair, which takes place on Sunday, December 6, with a grotto for Santa to meet local children – once he has parked the plane and tried out the mulled wine, mince pies and cakes on offer. There’s also a vintage tractors and cars display. Entry costs £3.

Sally Conner, RABI regional manager for the North East, said: “As a charity, voluntary donations are our greatest income stream and fund-raising events like this one help us to continue doing the work we do, in rural communities up and down the country.

“We’re all looking forward to seeing Santa on December 6 – and it’s just fantastic that he’s a supporter of RABI!”

This summer, Doxford Barns, near Chathill, opened its doors as the county’s newest wedding venue following a complete renovation.