TRADERS who have suffered two difficult years over the pandemic are hoping for a bumper Christmas shopping season as the town lights up for the festive season.

The Christmas lights in Wallingford town centre were switched on this week with the Mayor, Marcus Harris, saying "it is looking its best” for the traditional December shopping rush.

Unlike previous years, there were no celebrations as the lights were switched on, however there will be a Christmas market this weekend. The event will feature stalls in the Market Place selling Christmas gifts and food from local craftspeople and producers.

Mr Harris said: “We are not doing any big ceremony this year.

"We have switched the lights on in time for the Carol service that is coming up in the next couple of weeks and we are fully decorated and getting Christmas ready.”

Herald Series: Crhistmass tree in Wallingford before the Chsitmas lights were switched on

The Cholsey and Wallingford Railway – a preserved heritage line run by volunteers – will be running a Polar Express-themed service throughout December, which is expected to attract more than 30,000 visitors.

Mr Harris added: “We got the lights lit up earlier because we want people to see Wallingford looking its best. We want to make sure that we maximise the festive experience for all the new visitors who are coming to town.”

Business owners, like Jim Harris from the Jim Beans cafe, are looking forward to an influx of visitors attracted by the festive activities.

This will be the coffee shop's first Christmas, having opened earlier this year.

Mr Harris said: "I think it is going to be very busy. It is the start of the festive period. People will be out doing their Christmas shopping and visiting the town."

He says the Christmas events this year will be essential in helping local businesses, as the pandemic killed off last year's festivities.

* The Polar Express will run through December.

* Wallingford Christmas Shopping Sunday will take place this weekend

* The Christmas Makers Market will also take place on Sunday at Ayres House Studios in Station Road, Wallingford