A GROUP of children from a Bishop Auckland nursery was left speechless yesterday as Santa paid a visit to the town.

The children, from the York House nursery, had been looking forward to meeting Santa for weeks, but were dumbstruck when he arrived at his newly-opened grotto at Bishop Auckland Town Hall.

Nursery manager Debby Shaw said: "They had been read a couple of stories, and were really excited until Santa came in and then they clammed up."

Santa said afterwards: "The boys and girls were smashing - they've all been very good."

The children, aged three and four, made the trip to the town hall to help open the grotto, where children can meet Santa, post letters to him and make wishes at a magical well.

Santa will be in the ice palace-themed grotto each Saturday until Christmas, between 10am and 12pm, and on Thursday from 6pm to 8pm.