SLIDESHOW: Santa makes his big arrival

SANTA Claus was afforded a hero’s welcome as he rolled into Hartlepool to get the Christmas countdown underway.

Hundreds of excited youngsters gathered in the town’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre on Sunday morning to welcome Santa into his grotto.

After an hour of fun and games, the main man made his big entrance at 12pm when he was led into the shopping centre accompanied by the Richmond Pipe and Drum band along with members of Hartlepool Round Table.

While Santa was the star of the show in the malls, there were excited faces outside too with three reindeers on show near to the Argos entrance of the shopping centre.

After plenty of smiles and waves, Santa took up residence in his grotto to give youngsters the chance to tell him what presents they would like him to bring them next month.

Santa said: “I always enjoy coming to Hartlepool, I get a lovely welcome from the boys and girls and their parents and I’ll be doing my best to see if I can get them what they ask for!”

Proceeds raised from the wishing well at Santa’s grotto will go towards a fund to help two-year-old Bradley Lowery, from Blackhall, who is battling childhood cancer Neuroblastoma.

The Centre will be open for late shopping until 8pm on Thursday, December 19; Friday, December 20; Saturday, December 21; and Monday, December 23. Middleton Grange’s Indoor Market will also be open to festive shoppers on Sunday, December 22 from 10am until 4pm and Christmas Eve from 8am.