STEWARTS has announced that Father Christmas will not be visiting its garden centres this year.

The garden centre business, which has sites in Christchurch and Wimborne, said that it is with “a heavy heart” that it had to make the announcement ahead of the Christmas period, due to Santa being in the “at risk group”.

However, they have assured people that Father Christmas will be sending his reindeer to Stewarts instead, and his elves are “observing social distancing measures in the workshop.”

In an announcement made on their Facebook page, Stewarts garden Centre said: “It is with a heavy heart we have to announce that we will be unable to welcome Father Christmas to our Garden Centres this year.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lapland will remain in lockdown until December 24, 2020. There is sadly no air bridge between Lapland and Stewarts.

“He is very upset to miss out on meeting you all before the big day, but as an older gentleman, he is in the ‘at risk’ group so has to be mindful of his health.

“His elves are observing social distancing measures in the workshop but are working hard to make all the wonderful toys for the good girls and boys this year in staggered shifts.

“Father Christmas will be sending his trusty reindeer to our Garden Centres so, if you’ve been good this year, whisper what you’d like to them and they’ll pass your message back to him.

“Lapland’s lockdown is due to be lifted on the evening of December 24 so don’t worry, if you’ve been good you can still expect a present this year.”