FAMILIES queued up at a safe distance to meet Santa and his elf when they visited Town Gardens just before Christmas.

The jolly North Pole homeowner has been popping up around Swindon all month, spreading festive cheer to youngsters and their families.

Little elf Trixie joined Father Christmas during his latest visit which delighted children and adults alike.

Heather Angell and her young son Theo enjoyed their meet-and-greet with the generous gift-giver.

Heather said: “It’s brought a little bit of magic to a very difficult year, it was so nice. We haven’t had the chance to do any Christmassy things so this was perfect.”

Theo didn’t know he was going to meet Santa until he spotted the iconic red-and-white suit while walking past the rose garden.

He added: “It was amazing, I was shocked. We talked about a lot of stuff and what I wanted for Christmas - I want a robot.”

Excited chatter filled the air around the bandstand while Andrew and Kayleigh Clarke lined up and brought their five-year-old daughter Molly and three-year-old son Charlie to see him.

Kayleigh said: “It’s the only chance the kids will get to see Santa this year, so they loved it. They were really excited to see him, they were all smiles, it was amazing.”

Molly said: “He asked me what I wanted for Christmas and told me to be good. I asked what food he wanted left out on Christmas Eve for him and the reindeer.”

Santa’s Swindon representative Gary Read set up a Facebook page to arrange his appearances.

He quickly gained a sizeable following, with thousands of people keen to see the festive legend and spreading the word over social media.

Gary said: “It's been overwhelming and emotional. So many people have connected with this and got behind it, it's been phenomenal, and my daughter Lily got involved, which was nice.

"It started as something to bring a bit of cheer and clear my head after a difficult year, then it blew up overnight and Santa's become a Swindon celebrity.

"People waved and shouted encouraging messages when they saw walking around town, he's covered many miles."

Santa made some final stops at Covingham and Nythe yesterday before he prepares to drop off presents to good boys and girls around the globe tonight.

Saint Nick’s visits are fundraising for Prospect Hospice, who cared for Gary’s mother-in-law five years ago, and for Rhys Paoletta, an eight-year-old boy from Penhill who is battling brain cancer.

Santa spoke to Rhys through a video call earlier this month and became determined to help his family have a nice Christmas.

He hopes to meet the brave youngster and present a cheque to his family for £1,500 today, then pop over to Prospect to give the hardworking staff their share of the donations.

The target total has already been reached, but any extra donations can be given via https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/giving-rhys-paoletta-a-magical-christmas