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Lily's letter to Santa touches down in ski resort!

With a little help from her grandad, Lily Harmer addressed her Christmas wish-list to Santa Claus, North Pole, tied it to two helium balloons and launched it from the cliffs at Hastings. The balloons cleared the trees. But instead of heading for the North Pole they flew over France, Belgium and Germany before touching down - 800 miles from Hastings - in an Austrian ski resort. John Ryall takes up the story.

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Staff miss Christmas Day to look after the sick

Some of the Royal Surrey's staff who are working on Christmas day. Credit: Royal Surrey County Hospital

While tucking into your Christmas turkey, spare a thought for the doctors, nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants who will be working on Christmas day.

For the staff at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, December 25 will be just a normal day at the 'office' as they take care of the sick, during the festive season.

Staff will be working during the festive season at the hospital. Credit: ITV news

I would like to thank all the selfless staff across the hospital who will be away from their families and working on Christmas Day. Their commitment and hard work is always greatly appreciated.

– Alf Turner, Deputy Chief Executive

Christmas card rush - Behind the scenes at Royal Mail in Reading!

The 15th of December is the busiest day of the year for our posties. Hundreds of thousands of cards, letters and parcels are collected sorted and delivered as our love affair with Christmas cards continues.

At this time of year extra staff have been drafted in by the Royal Mail to cope with the bumper post bags. Our reporter Penny Silvester got up very early this morning to join staff at Reading's sorting office in Berkshire - to give us an insight into the operation there.

The interviewees are: Matthew Taylor, a postman; Clare Brown, a postwoman; and Graeme Tyers, a Royal Mail manager.

Santa's special gift to children with autism

With Christmas just a month away, a visit to Santa's grotto will be on many families' list of festive treats.

But for children with autism it can become a stressful experience, with too much noise and bustle.

Now, one mother from Sussex has developed a special autism-friendly grotto, and the idea is being rolled out nationwide.

Malcolm Shaw spoke to Jo-Ann D'Costa-Manuel of Autism Parent Empower, Mark Haynes of County Mall Crawley, and Sharon Watt from Desmond Anderson Primary School.

Winchester choristers get their skates on for festive market

Winchester's Christmas market is celebrating it's tenth year, and expecting 350,000 people in the run up to Christmas.

Today the cathedral choristers took to the ice for the traditional launch of their festive season.

This year, as Rachel Hepworth reports, they were protected from the elements:

Rachel spoke to choristers, Director of Music Andy Lumsden, Acting Dean, Canon Roland Riem and Operations Director Phillip Holroyd Smith.

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TWO MONTHS of Christmas. Why one Kent town is keeping its tree up until Valentine's Day

Christmas in Paddock Wood could last an extra two months because of a Collared Dove that has nested in the town's 25-foot high Christmas tree.

The wild bird was discovered when the decorations were being taken down and, thanks to bird protection laws, the tree will have to stay in place until the chicks fly the nest.

Until they leave some time in mid-February the birds are being watched over by CCTV. Sarah Saunders reports.

Where are all the Christmas Eve shoppers?

This Tesco store in Newbury was very quiet this morning Credit: Mike Pearse

After the rush of the past few days, Christmas Eve appears to be much quieter.

Town centres and main shopping areas are extremely quiet this morning with few queues.

Staff at the main Tesco store in Newbury say they are "gobsmacked" at the lack of people.

Basingstoke and Reading are also less busy than expected. Roads in the town are almost deserted.

Shops say there was a late rush yesterday and food stores say they were very busy overnight.

Not a soul in sight at a Tesco store in Berkshire Credit: Mike Pearse
A quiet Christmas Eve in Reading... Credit: Mike Pearse

Mild Christmas sees the first signs of spring

We're seeing the first signs of spring in the mild temperatures Credit: ITV Meridian

Well, temperatures balmier than Barcelona are doing funny things to our garden plants.

Experts say even though Christmas is almost upon us, we're seeing the first signs of Spring.

And with no frost, winter bedding plants are blooming, adding a splash of colour on mild but dull days.

ITV Meridian spoke to Horticulturist, Heather Taylor.

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