Alfred headed to a quiet Shaftesbury residential street to see why a home-made Christmas decoration has become a star attraction.
Turning on Mark Oram’s outdoor Christmas tree in his front garden in Ridgeway, a cul-de-sac off Heathfield’s Way, was quite an occasion. Friends and family gathered for the ceremony which began with a countdown. And since the decoration featuring 4,600 coloured lights was switched on, visitors have been heading towards this quiet Shaftesbury street to get a glimpse.
“It seems that our Christmas tree draws in the people. They come into the close and when they go around the corner, they are pleasantly surprised because there are three or four houses that do their houses up really nice,” Mark Oram explained.
By day, the triangular metal structure looks a bit like playpark equipment or some kind of rocket. But at dusk, when the lights go on, it’s transformed. “It doesn’t look nothing during the daytime but when it’s lit, and the trunk is lit as well, it does resemble a Christmas tree and from the road looks quite nice,” said Mark, with far too much modesty.
He says the design has evolved over a few festive seasons. “We started to decorate. I don’t like too much tacky stuff on the house. We decided to put a structure in the garden which resembled a Christmas tree. The following year I thought it looked nice but it still looked like a wigwam, so I decided to make this last structure and lift it off the ground,” said Mark.
He dreamed up a design and set about crafting the ‘tree’. “I had to have the band that goes around the trunk made because I don’t have the facilities to heat and bend metal. The rest of it, I can do myself. I made my welding booth on the drive in one of my gazebos,” Mark laughed. “I welded it all up and then me and my wife slipped it over the posts, and it worked a treat.”
The twinkling decoration has encouraged seasonal selfies. “We’ve had little kiddies have their pictures taken outside. We even had a police officer come around to have a good look at it. It’s surprising how many people come into the close just to have their picture taken,” said Mark.
Mark is flattered to have been asked to make a copy of his decoration by people who want their own version. “It is nice. It would be really good for my idea to spring up all over Shaftesbury. I’d like that,” Mark said.
Last year, Mark made one of his tree-style structures for a manager at his workplace, Stalbridge Linen. He says that he comes up with his creative ideas at work, when he’s on the road. “Most of my thinking is done first thing in the morning, when I’m travelling up to London, where I can design it in my head and then I can come home and make it.”
Mark accepts he has now made a rod for his own back and will probably have to devise a bigger and better creation each Christmas. “The expectation is probably high,” he said. “I can’t go any bigger because that would mean a huge trunk in the ground. It looks nice in proportion to the house.” And he says he is not worried about lightning strikes. “It’s aluminium, anyway,” he laughed.
Although Mark is unlikely to be able to take any orders for replicas, he’s happy to share his plans. “I don’t know whether I’ve actually got the time to make any more, but I certainly would help people make their own,” he said.
Although the tree offers some excitement for visitors Mark says the festive decoration is really for his family. “We have got eight grandchildren and it’s nice to do Christmas for them,” he said.
The ‘tree’ will be illuminated until just after the New Year. “The trunk will stay in the garden and then I am going to make a small rotary, that will fit on top for hanging baskets for Janet’s spring and summer flowers.”
He is tight-lipped about his plans for next year’s display. “You’ll have to wait and see,’”Mark laughed.