SANTA was suspected of doing a “double shift” when he was spotted in Ellesmere Port on Christmas Day.
Passers-by stopped to wave as the old chap and his horse-drawn sleigh – piled high with presents – trotted down Stanney Lane.
But it turns out this wasn’t the real Santa – he was back home in the North Pole by then taking a well-earned rest.
The mystery man in red – pictured for us by reader David Mullock – was actually Little Sutton’s Ray Wardle, who was just standing in for Father Christmas.
Mr Wardle, 74, said: “I have been doing this for 40 years, it is a great way to deliver family presents.
“I was going down to see my grandchildren off Stanney park. They’d asked me to go on Christmas Eve but it was raining heavily. Luckily, the weather was much better on Christmas Day.
“I love to see the children’s faces when they see Santa on his sleigh. I have a speaker playing carols, and fairy lights for the sleigh.”
Mr Wardle, a long-standing horse lover, was pulled on his Christmas trip by his 15-year-old cob Sophie.
As a further gesture of goodwill, just before Christmas he goes to all his neighbours’ children and hands out sweets for the holidays.
But sadly, not everyone appreciates his seasonal generosity.
Mr Wardle explained: “On the Wednesday before Christmas I was out in the sleigh, in full costume, playing music through speakers on the sleigh.
“I had gone through Cheshire Oaks and was going through Ellesmere Port town centre when someone pulled the speaker off and all the wires out.
“It was dark so I couldn’t see who it was. It must have been kids. I was moving at the time so they must have run up behind me and done it.
“I thought the tape of carols had just stopped at first, then I realised what had happened. When I came back home, I had to rewire it all.”
Mr Wardle had his first job on the horse-drawn bread cart with the Co-op, delivering loaves in the town centre including to the building which is now the Pioneer office.