Want the secret to elf and happiness? Ask Leeds’s own Val, the country’s oldest Christmas elf at 78!

Valerie Priest
Valerie Priest
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Val Priest is one of Temple Newsam’s most committed volunteers.

And she thinks she might be Britain’s oldest Christmas elf.

The 78-year-old from Halton is one of several elves who are working hard to put up an 18ft Christmas tree and plenty of other decorations at the magical Leeds attraction.

Val said: “I’ve never met an elf who’s as old as I am and I doubt there is one. My granddaughter said ‘you’re 78, you can’t be an elf!’ but it’s just a bit of fun for the children really.”

In the run up to Christmas, Val has been dressing up and leading local children through the grotto to see Santa.

“The kiddies absolutely love it,” she said. “There was one boy who was shaking with excitement when Santa gave him his present. Seeing all the children’s faces just makes it all worthwhile.”

Val’s been visiting Temple Newsam for as long as she can remember. She grew up in the area and has taken her children and grandchildren up to admire the “gorgeous” house and gardens.

She added: “The staff there are fantastic and treat volunteers as one of their own. It’s just such a lovely atmosphere for everyone. Some families have been back two or three times already.”

Visitors can meet Val at the festivities this weekend and enjoy an array of historical activities such as carol singers, a Tudor banquet display and Victorian craft making.

And it doesn’t look like Val will be hanging up her elf hat and green costume anytime soon.

“Whenever they need me, I’ll be there,” she said.

Tickets cost £17 for families and £7.40 for adults.

Other festive attractions and grottos in the region this Christmas include:

National Coal Mining Museum, Wakefield: This grotto, based 140m underground, is open every weekend up to December 18, plus addition dates from December 19-23.

Stockeld Park, Wetherby: Santa will be there to meet and greet children right up until Christmas Eve.

Other grottos at: Tong Garden Centre, Tong; Bolton Abbey, Skipton; Fountains Abbey, Ripon and McArthurGlen Designer Outlet, York.

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