FESTIVE spirit was in full flow at the return of a popular Christmas market.

Colchester High Street was shut to traffic to make room for more than 80 stalls offering offering toys, mulled wine, festive gifts, jewellery, vegan products and art and crafts for all tastes and budgets.

Thousands of people flocked to the event from far and wide to grab a Christmas treat.

On top of the shopping, Footprints Street Theatre performed a Victorian Christmas,and there were musical gigs from local artists Simon, Terry and Dave and Chosen Vessels Community Gospel Choir.

Youngsters also got their fill of festive fun with face painting, fairground rides and even a special visit from the man himself - Father Christmas - who took a break from preparations at the North Pole to visit the historic High Street.

Colchester Council put on special parking deals including free stays at Butt Road, Middleborough, Napier Road and Sheepen Road car parks as well as all day parking for £1 in nearby Britannia Car Park in a bid to entice even more visitors to the town centre for the special annual event.

Council leader Mark Cory (Lib Dem) said he was delighted to see so many people of all ages having fun and enjoying the market.

He said: “It was great to see the Christmas market attract thousands to the historic High Street and help visitors get into the festive spirit with live music, children’s activities and some delicious street food.

Mr Cory said he hoped independent firms would have benefitted from the increased footfall and had their tills ringing with extra cash ahead of the busiest period of the year.

“Our Christmas Market just gets bigger and better each year and has become a great occasion to welcome new visitors and traders to the town, offer different shopping experiences and help boost local businesses in the run-up to Christmas,” he added.

Colchester’s regular market takes place every Friday and Saturday and will also be operating an additional Wednesday market day on the next two Wednesdays before Christmas between10am and 8pm.

The Friday market takes place in the High Street, whilst the Wednesday and Saturday markets are currently being trialled in Lion Walk which has proved popular with traders and shoppers.

There will be no Friday market on December 27 but it will run as usual the weekend before.