We spent £20,000 to turn our garage into a Christmas village open to the public – it took 20 years to decorate
A PAIR of Christmas-crazy grandparents have spent £20,000 to transform their garage into a mini Christmas village – raising over £15,000 for charity in the process.
Pauline, 67, and Rob Sollis, 63, have spent the past two decades putting together a festive collection to transform their home into a winter wonderland.
The duo now have a collection of well over 2000 unique pieces, including town houses, a zoo, a cathedral and even a working fairground with Ferris wheel.
Hundreds of people flock to her home in Cirencester, Gloucestershire to admire her decorations and the ever-expanding lighted village in her garage.
One child’s retired grandparents proudly display their floor-to-ceiling collection and even turned it into an event called the Vale Road Christmas Lights.
And Rob, a retired maintenance engineer, has once again opened up his garden and garage to the delight of neighbors who are excited to see him added to last year’s show.
Rob, 63, said: “I suppose you could call us obsessive, but we just like doing something that brings people a little bit of joy.
“Don’t ask us how much we’ve spent on this over the years because we wouldn’t have a clue.
“If we can bring people together and have them enjoy something that we enjoy, then it’s worth every penny.
“It all started when we first moved into the cul-de-sac when a neighbor lit up a yew tree in her garden.
“I thought I would join her and put some lights up on our hedge – but then she started to grow. And soon everyone on the street was doing it.
“In fact, we even have donations from neighbors to add to the collection and that really brings the community together. In fact, people have been coming to us every year for the past 22 years.
“Some came as kids and now they’re bringing their own kids, so it’s kind of become a Christmas tradition.”
The couple also beautify their garden with a North Pole area adorned with snow and penguin figures, a nativity scene display, 3-foot statues of toy soldiers and angels, and even a handcrafted wooden sleigh featuring Santa Claus.
Pauline said: “We started collecting in 2001 when we were visiting a garden center just before Christmas and Rob saw a whole miniature Christmas house and fell in love.
“We bought a couple of the houses right away and displayed them on a replacement sideboard in the living room.
“After Christmas we bought a few more items on sale.
“The larger LeMax pieces cost us between £40 and £200, like the fairground and museum.
“Most houses have cost between £25 and £60.
“The pieces are just mesmerizing; you could look in through the windows and see into the little shops.”
It has become an annual tradition and we go out every Christmas to buy more pieces.
With electricity prices soaring, Pauline and Rob have decided to turn on fewer lights this year and use eco-friendly LED lights.
And the couple’s collection is so extensive that it started taking over the living room, so in 2013 Pauline spent five months setting up the exhibition in her garage.
She said: “It took me so long to set it up that we never put it away and it’s now staying in the garage permanently.
“Rob set up all the electrical and I organized all the parts.
“We have townhouses, churches, a park that has a river running through it that has dancers and skaters on the frozen parts.
“There is a huge amusement park, an industrial area with factories along a river with watermills, a ski slope with a cable car and a Christmas tree.
“We also have some special pieces like a nativity scene and a cathedral.
“We got a new piece this year, a stage that lights up and plays music, it has quite a lot of possibilities.
“There are also some new amusement rides in the collection, as well as gingerbread men and human figures.”
The impressive model village has attracted visitors from all over the country over the last ten years, from children, students and families.
There is no entry fee but visitors are encouraged to make a donation which will go to a range of charities including Macmillan Cancer Support and Alzheimer’s Society, with £1,800 matched from last year’s donations.
Since the exhibition first opened to the public, the couple have raised over £15,000 for charity – with entry prices from just £1.50 for adults and 50p for children.
Pauline adds: “We opened the display to put a smile on people’s faces and get them in the festive mood.
“Year after year we add another piece and do something different with our garden show so people can see something new.
“We pride ourselves on being an accessible place for people to come and enjoy a bit of festive cheer.
“We even like to do little activities with the kids who come to visit, like asking them to count all the miniature Santas.”
https://www.the-sun.com/news/6986579/spent-20k-transforming-garage-christmas-village/ We spent £20,000 to turn our garage into a Christmas village open to the public – it took 20 years to decorate