The cul-de-sac that's just too Christmassy: Residents put up so many festive light displays they're a drain on the power gridDorset cul-de-sac has been branded 'Britain's most festive street'Astonishing light display attracts thousand of sightseers from miles awayRunton Road uses so much electricity at night it hits the local gridEach household pays roughly an extra 50 to run the incredible display
17:23 GMT, 13 December 2012
It started out as a bit of friendly rivalry between two neighbours at Christmas time.
But the festive competition of putting up Christmas lights outside the two homes led to a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ response from the rest of the Dorset cul-de-sac.
Now Runton Road in Poole has been dubbed Britain’s most festive street due to its spectacular Christmas light display – and the electricity board says the local grid 'takes a bit of a hit' when it is turned on every day at dusk.
Every year this quiet cul-de-sac in Dorset is lit up in a blaze of festive light, earning it the unofficial title of Britain's most festive street
Santa's little helpers: The festive residents in Runton Road have been putting up the display for more than 15 years
Nearly all of the 50 houses in the street are lit up at this time of year with flashing bulbs, singing Santas, giant inflatable snowmen, model reindeer, sleighs and trains.
The dazzling display can be seen from half-a-mile away and attracts thousands of visitors from miles around.
The cost of running the display adds
roughly 50 onto every household’s electricity bill and there are
thousands of individual Christmas lights in the street.
One house has even brought in a snow machine to turn their lawn into a carpet of white while another household blasts out carols from loudspeakers.
A spokesman from Southern Electric says there is a noticeable drain when the switch is flicked at Runton Road.
He said: 'We do notice a spike as there's a considerable draw on power but the local distribution network will handle that.'
The dazzling display can be seen from half-a-mile away and the electricity board say the local grid 'takes a bit of a hit' when it is turned on every day at dusk.
The suburban street is crammed with hundreds of visitors a night who flock from as far away as Wales, Oxford and London to see the lights.
Up to 100 cars have been known to queue around the block to reach the road and police have had to put out traffic cones in the past.
To the local taxi drivers who drop the sightseers off, Runton Road is called Christmas Street as that is what it has become widely known as to their passengers.
Nearly all of the 50 houses in Runton Road are lit up every Christmas, making it an annual tourist attraction
The electricity board say the local network 'takes a bit of a hit' when they are turned on at dusk
The stunning show began almost 20 years ago when neighbours Chris Smith, 61, and Bob Cowe, 71, got the ball rolling.
Ever since more and more residents have joined in the friendly competition.
Mr Smith said: 'It started when Bob put a table decoration in his window.
'A few days later I was in a shop and found a string of lights and bought them to put over the arch of our door.
'Another one of our neighbours did the same and over the years it has just grown and has escalated to virtually the whole street.
'Now we have to do it otherwise we will get told off by people who come to expect it.
'As you get older it becomes a bit of a chore getting up and down the ladder but it’s well worth it.
'It’s just fantastic to see how many people come to have a look in the days before Christmas.'
Homeowners on the street are enthusiastic about their dazzling homes, but not everyone embraces it quite as much as others, as this picture shows
One of the residents of Runton Road is an electrician who has to take time of work in December as he is in great demand by his neighbours.
The project is so vast that residents have their own switch on ceremony in the second week of December, including carols, mulled wine and a guided tour of the road.
This year the ceremony was watched by five million television viewers on the BBC programme The One Show.
Tom Brown, 63, who is retired, has been putting up Christmas lights outside his house for the last 20 years.
Dazzling: The display adds roughly 50 to each household's electricity bill
He moved to Runton Road six years ago and was pleasantly surprised when he saw his new neighbours shared his enthusiasm for the festive season.
Mr Brown said: 'It’s great and we all get a lot of fun out of it.
'It’s worth it when you see people outside with the smiles on their faces, it really is a lovely thing.
'This has just grown bigger and bigger over the years and we all take it pretty seriously.
'I think my display is probably the best, but then I would say that wouldn’t I
'But when the whole road is all lit up like this it looks fantastic.'
Mick Phillips, 58, introduced a snow machine this year which has proved a massive hit with his neighbours.
He said: 'I’ve been doing it for about 20 years. You feel you have to do something bigger and better every year.'