A GREY, damp and chilly Christmas Eve did not put off hundreds of shoppers and visitors from spending the afternoon in Bournemouth town centre.

With the Christmas Market, Alpine Bar, ice skate rink and Christmas Tree Wonderland in full flow, there was more than last minute shopping to be done.

While the Christmas Eve rushes of years gone by did not materialise, the scenes around the town appeared far busier than last year when footfall seemed particularly sparce.

Friends Julie Sells and Sue Durward were in the festive spirits with their Christmas light necklaces and decorative hats.

They said they decided to spend some time in the town centre to get some fresh air, break up the day and soak up the yuletide atmosphere.

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Sue said: “It is quite busy here in the Square but it hasn’t really got the hustle and bustle you would expect on Christmas Eve.

“I think there is more of a low key feel with a lot of people holding back this year.”

Julie will be spending her Christmas Day night at work as a carer at Elizabeth House care home in Alderney.

“I have done it before and I love it," she said. "I love the people I work with and the residents are great.

“All of the staff are amazing, especially the night team.”

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Julie and Sue said it was great that efforts were made to put on the Christmas Market and Christmas Tree Wonderland displays, although they would like to see a carousel or two next year for everyone to enjoy.

Couple Jonathan and Clare Chadd, from Ferndown, came to the town centre to collect a present they had ordered online.

“It is quieter than we expected it to be really,” Jonathan said.

“It will be a quiet Christmas with my wife and children then on Boxing Day we are with Clare’s family.

“We have got to count our blessings really. A couple of years ago I spent Christmas in hospital with a broken leg and my wife was in another hospital with our daughter, who had a rare kidney disease.

“It is all under control now and we are looking forward to Christmas together. As long as there is food on the table, we have to be grateful.”

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Lawrence Rowe popped into the town centre with his partner Mila.

He said: “We have come to get the last few bits.

“It is busy today but as a town we could do with having a few more shops open.

“It seems to have been busier the past three or four days which is good.

“We’re spending Christmas at home and just seeing friends. We are very much looking forward to it.”

Volunteers from the We Are Humans group were working hard by the Square opposite boots providing food and refreshments for those going through difficult times.

On Christmas Day the Bournemouth group will be providing a three course Christmas Dinner from 2pm until 3pm.

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Andrew Talbot, who organises the support service, said it would be the third time they had provided meals on December 25 and they normally help up to 200 people.

In Poole, the We Are Humans Canford Heath team, headed up by Eddie and Debbie Talbot, will be giving out dinners on Christmas Day under Towngate Bridge from 6pm.

Andrew said the use of their support service had continued to increase this year.

He said they provide their assistance to anyone in need without prejudice.

At the seafront, scores of people were taking the opportunity to stretch their legs along the promenade, while some hardy souls braved the conditions and were out on the water surfboarding.

See more pictures from around the town centre in the gallery at the top of this article.