THE weekend tranquillity of Coate Water was broken on Sunday morning as hundreds of festive characters descended on the park.

Runners of all ages were taking part in the annual Santa Dash, organised by the North Wiltshire Hash House Harriers, to raise money for several local charities.

In total, just under 350 people in Christmas outfits took part in the event, although the participants were joined by serval dogs to boost the numbers.

Before setting off, there was a group warm-up to get everyone in the mood before a 2.5 kilometre lap of the lake. Some of the hardier Santa’s went around a second time.

As well as Santas, there were a number of elves and a few reindeer as everyone got into the festive spirit.

“It’s great to see so many people having fun, which is what this is all about,” said Roger Somerville, grandmaster of the Harriers.

“We have people of all ages and ability taking part today. There’s nothing competitive about it. This is just a fun run to raise some money for charity.

“It’s the ninth year we have been doing this and it has become so well supported. We were a little bit concerned that with it being so wet some people might stay away but that isn’t the case.”

Although the ground was very wet and it was overcast, the rain stayed away for the duration of the run.

This allowed everyone to get around without too many problems before many went to refresh themselves with a drink at the Sun Inn, where the race started.

Roger said: “Lots of people have really stepped up to help us and we are very grateful. The pub have done a good job and so have the Shin Splints, the running group which regularly runs here.

“We have also had a lot of help from those who work at Coate to make everything like the parking is organised. I really want to thank them.”

While all the runners were there to have fun, the overall aim of the day was to raise money for local charities.

This year the Prospect Hospice and The Open Door Centre were the chosen organisations.

“We will split the money 50:50 between the two,” said Roger.

“I know it’s not huge amounts but we know it makes a difference. Last year we raised £750 for Women’s Aid which helped them a great deal.”