A PAIR of Christmas-mad grandparents have spent £20k transforming their garage into a mini-Christmas village – and they’ve raised over £15k for charities in the process.
Pauline, 67, and Rob Sollis, 63, have spent two decades amassing a festive collection to turn their home into a winter wonderland.
The duo now have a collection of over 2,000 individual pieces, including town houses, a zoo, a cathedral, and even a functioning fairground complete with a Ferris wheel.
Hundreds of people flock to their home in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, every year to marvel at their decorations and the ever-expanding lighted village in their garage.
The retired grandparents proudly display their floor-to-ceiling collection – and have even made an event of it called the ‘Vale Road Christmas Lights’.
And Rob – a retired property maintenance engineer – once again threw open his garden and garage this year to bring cheer to the neighbours.
Rob, aged 63, said: “I suppose you could call us obsessive but we just like doing something that brings a little bit of joy to people.
“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 they enjoy something that brings us a lot of pleasure then it’s worth every penny.
“It all started when we first moved into the cul-de-sac when a neighbour put lights in a yew tree in her garden.
“I thought I’d join her and put some lights along the top of our hedge – but then it began to grow. And soon everyone in the road was doing it.
“In fact, we even have donations from neighbours to add to the collection and it really brings the community together.
“In fact, we’ve had people coming every year to see us for the past 22 years.
“Some came as kids and now they are bringing their own children so it’s become a bit of a Christmas tradition.”
The pair also spruce up their garden with a North Pole area decorated with snow and penguin figures, a nativity display, 3ft statues of toy soldiers and angels, and even a handmade wooden sleigh complete with a Santa.
Pauline said: “We first began collecting in 2001 when we were visiting a garden centre just before Christmas, and Rob saw a whole miniature Christmas house display and fell in love.
“We bought a few of the houses then and there and put them on display on a spare sideboard in the front room.
“After Christmas, we went and got some more pieces in the sale.
“The bigger LeMax pieces have cost us between £40 and £200, like the fairground and museum.
“Most of the houses have cost between £25 and £60.
“The pieces are just fascinating; you could look inside the windows and see inside the little shops.”
It became a yearly tradition, and we go out and get more pieces each Christmas.
With electricity prices surging, Pauline and Rob have decided to turn their lights on a bit less this year, as well as using eco-friendly LED lights.
Pauline added: “The display took me so long to put up that we’ve never put it away, and it permanently stays in the garage.
“Rob set up all the electrics, and I organised all of the pieces.
“We’ve got town houses, churches, a park with a river running through it that has dancers and skaters on the frozen parts.
“There’s a huge funfair, an industrial area with factories alongside a river with water mills, a ski slope with a cable car and a Christmas tree.
“We’ve got quite a few specialty pieces too like a nativity and a cathedral.
“We got a new piece for this year, which is a stage that lights up, and plays music, it has quite a few options.
“There’s also some new funfair rides, as well as ginger bread men and human figurines in the collection.”
The impressive model village has drawn in visitors from all over the country over the past ten years including children, students and families.
There is no admission fee but visitors are encouraged to make a donation which will go to a number of charities including Macmillan Cancer Support and Alzheimer’s Society.
A total of £1,800 was handed over from last year’s donations.
Since first opening the display up the public, the couple have raised over £15,000 for charities – with entrance fees just £1.50 for adults and 50 pence for children.
Pauline added: “We opened up the display to put a smile on people’s faces and to get them into the festive mood.
“Year on year, we add another piece and do something a bit different with our garden display, so people get to see something new.
“We pride ourselves on being an accessible place for people to come and enjoy a little bit of festive cheer.
“We even like to do little activities with the children who come to visit, like asking them to count up all the miniature Santas.”