A POPULAR Santa sleigh tour is set to return with an even bigger route than usual.

The tour of Darlington and its surrounding villages is a highlight for many families in the run-up to Christmas.

Organised by Darlington Bondgate Round Table, the sleigh will be covering 13 different routes around the town over a two-week period, aiming to pass as many homes as possible.

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Paul Swift, one of 18 volunteers who organises the event, which has been a fixture of Christmas in Darlington for more than 40 years, said: "It's something I can remember as a five-year-old, it coming past and seeing Santa waving and just thinking it was so magical.

"It still gets a bit of dust in my eye thinking about it now.

"It's quite hard to explain but its just an amazing thing to be involved in. Every year it gets me.

"This is the fun bit of the year for us. We're more of a social club than a charity but at this time of year we like to give something back to the town."

The Northern Echo:

The group aims to raise about £10,000 through the event, which starts on Sunday in Middleton St George and culminates in Skerne Park on Monday, December 20.

It will also spend a day in High Row, in the town centre, so anyone who does not live on the route can see the sleigh.

It will be there between 10am and 4pm on Saturday, December 18.

Due to Covid, they are not planning to knock on doors this year but will have collection buckets on each night and are also inviting members of the public to donate via its Just Giving page.

In the past, it has donated to causes including the Women's Refuge, food banks, youth clubs and individuals who need extra support due to circumstances.

Two routes have been added to this year's itinerary, meaning it is covering more of Darlington than ever before.

Some routes have changed from previous years and further information, including timings and the full list of locations, is available from SantaSatNav.com.

Mr Swift added: "We're not leafleting as in previous years but we're doing more on social media and people will be able to follow us on our routes.

"We don't want to miss people out though so our motto this year is 'if you're a fan, tell your nan'."

The Northern Echo:

The full route:

Sunday, December 5: Middleton St George - starting at Sadberge Village Hall 4.30pm. Sponsored by Henderson Opticians.

Monday, December 6: Red Hall, Lingfield, Firth Moor starting at Red Barnes Way 5.45pm. Sponsored by Vigor Doors.

Tuesday, December 7: Coniscliffe Area starting at Manor Road 5.45pm. Sponsored by Inspired Chocolate.

Wednesday, December 8: Hummersknot starting bottom of Salutation Road 5.30pm. Sponsored by Hogarth Tech.

Thursday, December 9: West Park & High Grange starting Edward Pease Way 5.45pm. Sponsored by Paul Swift Precision Driving.

Sunday, December 12: Hurworth starting at Avon Road 5pm. Sponsored by Clark Willis solicitors.

Monday, December 13:. Mowden Area starting Mowden Pub 5.45pm. Sponsored by Smith and Allan Oil & Lubricants.

Tuesday, December 14: Brinkburn, Cockerton & Branksome starting Darrowby drive 5.45pm. Sponsored by RiteConstruction.

Wednesday, December 15. Whinfield starting Asda 5.45pm. Sponsored by Green i Signs.

Thursday, December 16: Elton, Pierremont starting Flora Ave 5.45pm. Sponsored by Darlington Bedding Centre.

Saturday, December 18: Darlington Town Centre starting 9am-4pm High Row. Sponsored by Clark Willis Solicitors.

Sunday, December 19: Harrowgate Hill, Springfield starting Longfield / Percy Road 5pm. Sponsored by Taylor’s Butchers.

Monday, December 20: Skerne Park starting Park Place Car Park 5.45pm. Sponsored by Recruitrite.

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