WITH a sandy beach, deckchairs and a baking hot sun, Darlington seemed more southern Spain than North-East England as a popular summer attraction got underway.

Around 40 tons of sand, supplied by builders’ merchants Jewson, helped to transform the town centre into a traditional beach resort as part of the annual Darlington by the Sea event.

Hundreds of people of all ages descended on the town to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy creative workshops, live entertainment, games and rides.

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Organised by the business improvement district, Distinct Darlington, the summer event is now in its second year.

Manager of Distinct Darlington, Alex Hirst, said: “Our urban beach is one of the highlights of the summer.

“It brings a smile to the faces of Darlington’s shoppers, residents and visitors and what could be nicer on a hot day than to sink into a deckchair, wiggle your toes in the sand and enjoy an ice cream – all without leaving town?”

The event marked the start of the summer holidays and ran alongside the Disney 10 Minute Shake Up Roadshow – part of the Change4Life initiative which aims to encourage families to stay active over the summer holidays.

Despite the rising mercury, scores of children took part in games of table tennis, badminton, basketball and tennis, while crowds enjoyed performances by Chung Do Kwan martial arts group and fencing master classes hosted by Prince’s Trust students and Darlington-based Street Swords.

Disney-themed activities such as musical statues based on the popular film, Frozen, and Toy Story lasso also helped to get the younger generation active.

Linda McLaren, 59, who attended the event with her son, Barry, and five grandchildren said: “It has been really good - all the children have enjoyed it.

“It is something for them to come and do during the summer holidays.”

Staff from Darlington Borough Council’s Local Motion team also helped people cycle their way to their five-a-day with a smoothie-making bike, offering free fresh fruit drinks.

They were promoting their Big Summer campaign, which aims to get more people walking and cycling during the summer.

Marketing officer Kathryn Shaw said: “We have been really busy and have got through loads of smoothies.

“We have had lots of children on the bike, and a few adults as well.”

Darlington by the Sea runs from 10am to 5pm every day until Thursday, August 7. Free activities include Punch and Judy shows, film screenings, nautical workshops, fairground stalls and a ice cream vans.

For more information visit distinctdarlington.co.uk