Now that's what I call a river dance

It’s the kind of scene that most anglers, wearied from hours sitting on the bank with barely a nibble to show for it, can only dream about.

This is a 'superswarm' of silver carp, caused by the hum of a fishing boat's electric motor.

The carp react to the vibrations as they would to a predator - jumping up to 10ft out of the water.

The aerial dance - captured by documentary makers in August on the Illinois river, a tributary of the Mississippi - is a spectacular sight as the water churns with fish.

But the frenzied silver carp, which weigh up to 40lb, can swamp boats and cause serious injury to anyone in their path.

Film-maker John Downer said the ferocity of the swarm astonished the team. 'It was like all hell had broken loose, they had to return with better protected equipment.

'For a fisherman it's like paradise. They don't even have to drop a line, the fish just jump into the boat.'

Well, I'll be doggone! Canine caper as dog steals bone from shop at Christmas

As thefts go it was pretty straightforward. The thief walked right into the shop, picked up what he wanted and walked straight back out again.

Except this criminal was a canine.

Just before Christmas the four-legged hound sauntered into Smiths Food & Drug Store in Murray, Utah, and, after a brief sniff at checkout, moved straight to aisle 16 - the pet aisle.

Once there he casually grabbed a rawhide bone (worth $2.79) and, with it safely clamped between his jaws, headed for the exit.

It was at this point that it could have all gone wrong for him as he came across the store's manager, Roger Adamson. He told CNN: 'I have never seen this dog before, he's a brand-new customer. He didn't even have his special value card.

'I looked at him and I said "Drop it". Then I decided I wanted to keep all my fingers so I didn't try to take it from him.

'He looked at me and I looked at him, and then he ran for the door and away he went - right out the front door.'

Looking back over CCTV footage, which captured the entire incident, one shop worker remarked: 'You have to see it to believe it, it's crazy.'

Latest reports suggest the four-legged thief is still at large.

Catch of the day: How a tiny kingfisher caught six different types of fish in two hours

An amateur photographer was amazed after watching a kingfisher catch six different types of fish in just two hours.

Paul Richards photographed the tiny female bird as she kept diving down and surfacing with flatfish, shrimp, shellfish, goby, mullet and even a tiny sea bass.

'It was just fantastic to see,' he said. 'It shows that birds are like us - they like a bit of variety at meal times.

'I've seen her fish there three times a day - and she will catch four or five at each session.

'That's quite a haul for such a little bird.'
The kingfisher lives in the shadow of the giant Texaco oil refinery on the banks of Cleddau estuary in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.

She vanishes each spring to breed - but then returns to her stretch of the river for the rich pickings.

And the bird has seen off two other kingfishers who have tried to profit from her prize patch.

Retired wildlife officer Mr Richards, 55, said: 'She is one of nature's most beautiful creatures but she's also a survivor.

'The kingfisher knows she is sitting on a stretch of water that can serve up the catch of the day.'

Mr Richards spends up to 30 hours a week in his hide on the bank of the river - just a few feet from the branches where the kingfisher perches with her dinner.

He said: 'She's got to know me now and has become used to the sound of my cameras clicking away.'

Wildlife experts say kingfishers must eat their own bodyweight in fish every day to survive.

The moment a man ran for his life as a polar bear chased him around his car in Alaska

There are few things more enjoyable on a freezing day than a vigorous game of tag followed by a hearty meal.

Unless you're supposed to be the main course, that is.

These pictures show how close one man came to being a polar bear's dinner.

The target, a surveyor, was returning to his car in the remote town of Barrow, Alaska, when he saw the great white beast.

With no time to unlock the door of his vehicle and climb inside, he tried to duck out of sight.

But the hungry bear was not giving up, and a terrifying chase began.

First, the beast stood up on its furry haunches and eyed its prey. Then it loped around the car, and even climbed over the bonnet to try to reach him.

After a few laps of the car the bear almost caught up, managing to land a few heavy swipes on his prey.

The man eventually managed to take refuge in a neighbouring truck which was unlocked.

His back and head were covered in more than 100 deep scratches where the massive claws had managed to rip through his thick winter clothes and padded coat.

Barrow is the northernmost town of the United States, 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Polar bears are frequently spotted around the area.

They are the world's largest land predator, and are the only animals that actively hunt humans.
Adult bears grow up to 10ft tall and can weigh 95 stone.

They are predominantly carnivores, eating seals, fish, reindeer, seabirds and even whales and baby walruses.

Environmentalists have warned that there could be as few as 22,000 left in the wild, and that they face extinction because the ice they live on is melting.

The wildlife group Polar Bears International says only one person has been killed by a polar bear in the U.S. in the past 30 years.

In Canada eight have been killed and in Russia, 19.

A spokesman said: 'In all instances in which a human was killed by a polar bear, the animal in question was undernourished or had been provoked.'

Wildlife groups have warned that increasing numbers of the giant bears have been spotted near towns and villages because they are trying to scavenge food.

Capello: I asked Santa for three modern greats (... and, no, he definitely DOESN'T mean Rooney, Becks and Gerrard)

England footballers such as Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole are hardly noted for their appreciation of high culture – but their manager, Fabio Capello, has revealed an erudite taste in modern art.

Asked in an interview what he wanted for Christmas, the 62-year-old Italian said: ‘A painting, like always. In the letter I write to Santa Claus I put down three contemporary artists: Cy Twombly, an American, Georg Baselitz, a German, and the Englishman Peter Doig.’

Despite his £5million-a-year salary, even Capello would have trouble buying one of their most famous works.

Doig, who is actually Scottish and specialises in abstract landscapes, set a European record for a living artist when his 1990 painting White Canoe sold at Sotheby’s for £5.7million last year, while American abstract expressionist Twombly, known for his large, graffiti-style paintings, sold his definitive work, Three Studies From The Temeraire, for £2million in 2004.

The work of Baselitz, however, is not for the faint-hearted. He burst on to the art scene in 1963 with a sexually explicit picture that could be interpreted as a child. It was later seized by public prosecutors in Germany.

Capello, who has taken the England team to within striking distance of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, also revealed his favourite book is Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski, dubbed Poland’s ‘Journalist of the Century’. The much-revered writer – whose book The Soccer War covered a five-day conflict between Honduras and El Salvador, which was sparked by football games in 1969 – was last year revealed to have once worked for Poland’s Communist secret police

Capello, who has homes in Milan, Madrid, Lugano in Switzerland and London, also lists his favourite play as the Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty and his preferred concert as any directed by ‘my friend, Valery Gergiev,’ the Russian conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Whatever fans think of Capello’s coaching, his artistic tastes set him apart from the typical football boss. He certainly operates in a different universe from his illustrious predecessor, Sir Alf Ramsey, who lived in a semi-detached house in Ipswich and whose passion was gardening. Ramsey earned a bonus of just £6,000 after winning the 1966 World Cup.

Curiously, for a man who has worked for and supported Right-wing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Capello revealed his support for Barack Obama in the new interview.

He said: ‘I’m happy with his election. He’s young and change is needed. I hope he will make the right decisions.’

In contrast to Capello’s love of high art, Wayne Rooney has suffered jibes after striking a £5million deal to ‘write’ two books – which team-mates joke is more than he has read.

Pictured: The REAL Jack frost... an icicle that bears an uncanny resemblance to the winter elf

Judging by his stern features, he looks like a bit of a chilly customer.

With what appears to be a clearly defined nose, eyes and lips, this image frozen on an icicle has led many to claim that it is Jack Frost personified. After all, he’s in his element.

Others say his beard and high forehead are the embodiment of the mythical figure Old Man Winter. Inevitably there are also those who say it is the face of Jesus.

The icicle was found dangling from a home in Lake Stevens, a city of about 40,000 in Washington state in the north-western U.S..

Jack Frost is believed to have originated from Viking mythology, and was known as Jokul Frosti, which means ‘icicle frost’. An elf-like creature, he possess an artistic streak.

Legend has it that Frost changes the colour of autumn leaves on trees. But it is in winter that his talent really shines and the intricate engraving of frost and ice on windows is his real masterwork.

His myth later became part of British folklore and Jack Frost has come to personify crisp, cold, winter weather.

Soldier's son becomes Britain's most decorated Cub Scout with 33rd badge

The son of a soldier has become the UK's most decorated Cub Scout - and now has his sights set on a Blue Peter badge.

Ben Spratling, 10, of Norwich, became the leader of the pack when he earned his 33rd badge - more than any other Cub Scout in the movement's 92-year history.

And Ben, who has just progressed into the Sea Scouts, is hoping that his achievement will earn him recognition from the BBC children's programme.

Ben's mother Deb, a 41-year-old teaching assistant, said: 'One of his badges was in Home Help - which included sewing - but guess who's sewn all the badges on his sweatshirt? I don't know if I can get a sewing badge.'

'I was never that good at sewing - but I am now,' she said, adding: 'I think I need a new arm.'

Mrs Spratling said her husband Kevin, 46, a finance firm manager, was a former Territorial Army soldier.

'He's got an army background and I think that's helped - they go out camping and so on,' she said.

'But it's really about Ben. He's a real old-fashioned outdoors boy - although he also likes his computer games. He's worked very hard to get these badges and we're proud of him.'

She added: 'What he'd really like now is a Blue Peter badge. He thought getting all the badges would be the sort of thing they'd like. He wrote to them but hasn't had a response.'

Ben joined his local Cubs' group when he was eight and took nearly two years to earn all the badges available.

'It was very difficult,' he added. 'But I feel quite proud.'

A spokesman for the Scout Association said: 'He's a record breaker. The Cub Scouts began in 1916 and over the years more badges have been added. Now there's 33 - more than ever before - and Ben's the first to get them all.'

Cute Bird Robin"bloodthirsty killers"

Could any lyric be more quintessentially British than A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square? Well, I'm sorry to disabuse you, but nightingales aren't likely to have sung in Berkeley Square for several thousand years - right back to the time when London was just swamp and thicket.

No, the bird Vera Lynn immortalised was far more likely to be a robin - for robins, too, sing very beautifully on summer nights, or at least the males do. And unlike nightingales, they are happy in towns. Credit where credit's due.

A beloved festive symbol, the robin has been a cheery star of countless Christmas cards as far back as the mid-19th century, as well as appearing on many Christmas postage stamps.

It's an association that probably arose from the fact that postmen in Victorian Britain wore red tunics as part of their uniforms and were nicknamed ' Redbreasts'.

Therefore, the robin that features on so many festive greetings cards represents the legion of hardworking posties who delivered the nation's cards. And, without exception, the birds are portrayed as sweet and fluffy.

If only it were true. For the robin is a very different beast to the one we think we know. . .

Take the most common robin greeting card image of all - several robins huddling sweetly together for warmth on frosted clothes-lines. This is utter fiction. In reality, robins are feisty little blighters. Fighting is their thing and other robins bring out the worst in them.

This is just one of the myths I help dispel in a new book on avian behaviour. For surely no creature on earth is more misunderstood than this red-breasted icon.

Far from being the gentle icon of Yuletide blessing, it is in fact a determined little bruiser that protects its territory with a vigour that belies its modest size.

The following year, however, the same pair may come together again - although they more commonly find someone new. Robins are, as the ornithologists say, 'serially monogamous' - the Zsa Zsa Gabors of the animal kingdom.

Should we judge them? Of course not. It's not easy to be a wild animal - certainly not as easy as it looks. 'Free as a bird,' we say, as we watch them take off for the skies.

But of course they are not free. Wild creatures of all kinds have to do the right things at the right time or they die - or at least they fail to leave offspring, which means their lineage dies.

For robins, this means being tough little pragmatists who fight their corner when they need to.

Though they might seem sweet - and never more so than as the symbol of Christmas - in real life they can't afford to be.

They may choose to keep us company from time to time, but they are still wild at heart. For my money, that makes them all the more endearing.

Five-year-old boy drowns in hotel pool on birthday trip to Disneyland Paris

A five-year-old boy has drowned after falling into a hotel pool near Disneyland Paris just one hour after arriving.

Colum Canning, from Derry, had gone to France to visit the resort with his twin brother Kieran, seven-year-old sister Caitlin and parents David and Karen to celebrate his birthday.

They had just checked in at the British-owned Thomas Cook Explorers Hotel, affiliated with Disneyland Paris, when the accident happened on Thursday.

It is understood Colum was playing with his brother and sister on the ground floor of the building when he disappeared from his mother's view for a few moments.

He was found a short time later in the pool.

He was pulled from the water by another guest but had already slipped into unconsciousness.

Colum died in hospital on Saturday when his parents took the decision to switch off his life support machine.

The boy's aunt, Sophie Martin Canning, said he was a mischievous child who was inseparable from his twin brother.

'Colum was a lovely five-year-old boy,' she said.

'He was loving and full of mischief. The twins were inseparable. They just could not be separated ever.'

The family had gone to France to visit the Disneyland resort for Christmas and to celebrate the twins' birthday on Boxing day.

The Thomas Cook Explorers Hotel advertises itself on its website as a 'Selected Hotel' of the Disneyland resorts, and boasts of its location 'just minutes' from the theme park.

Peggy Sue the pint-sized horse who is fully grown... at just 22 inches

She may be shorter than a set of cricket stumps, no bigger than the wheel of a car and tinier than a rocking horse.

At a mere 22 inches Peggy Sue is even smaller than many of her fellow American miniature horses.

But despite her dwarf-like size the six-month old, who will grow no bigger, is still the mane attraction wherever she goes.

Peggy Sue has such a great personality,' said her owner Jill Jones, who took her in soon after she was born.

'She loves people and even though she is the smallest, she can give any of the other horses a run for their money.'

Peggy Sue is the 45-year-old's 13th miniature horse.

She got her first seven years ago and has continued to add to her stables in Morpeth, Northumberland, ever since.

'I heard that Peggy Sue was in need of a home and when I met her it was a case of love at first sight,' she added.

'She has a fabulous personality, is so loving, likes people and is really cheeky.'

Mrs Jones, a property developer who owns the Supreme Dream Miniature Horse Team, uses the horses to raise money for charity.

She also shows her miniature horses around the country and earlier this year two of them were placed second and third at the Miniature Horse of the Year show.

They all tower over Peggy Sue who measured just 15 inches from the ground to her mane when she was born.

At the average height of a Labrador, she also weighs just six stone and eats just two handfuls of grain a day - compared to an entire bucket for an average horse.

Peggy Sue is one of the smallest miniature horses in the UK.

But at a stud in the southern Australian state of Victoria the world's tiniest measures up at a mere 15 inches tall - about the size of a week-old lamb.

Originally bred as pets for children of royalty during the 16th century, miniature horses are generally considered to be friendly and affectionate.

Nowadays they are mainly kept for showing. The Miniature Horse Association, which was founded in America in 1978, dictates that the horses' height must not exceed 34 inches.

The 65-year-old light bulb that outlived Woolworths (and survived the Blitz)

It defied the Luftwaffe during the Blitz - not to mention Britain’s own air-raid wardens when it was left on during the blackout.

Now this light bulb is about to outlive Woolworths, the shop where it was bought more than 65 years ago for one old penny.

The 40-watt wonder, which still works, now has pride of place in a china cabinet at the home of Valerie Beaney, 68, whose late mother Rose Allen bought it in 1943.

It saw out the dark days of the Second World War - even though the house it illuminated, where Rose lived with Valerie and her husband Jack in Walthamstow, East London, was bombed by the Germans.

During the blackout, Mr Allen was fined by air-raid wardens for leaving his lights on, so he painted all his light bulbs blue to makethem dimmer.

The bulb lit the bedroom where Mrs Beaney’s younger sister Elaine, now 66, was born.

And it was one of those that the family took with them when they were evacuated to Pluckley, near Ashford in Kent, following the Walthamstow air raid.

After being invalided out of the Royal Artillery, Jack Allen became a postman.

When he died at the age of 86 ten years ago, his widow Rose moved to a flat at Headcorn in Kent.

The light bulb went with her - still bearing traces of the blue paint Jack had put on it all those years earlier - and was used in her spare bedroom.

When Rose died three yearsago, aged 92, daughter Valerie, who lives nearby, decided to preserve the light bulb that has outlived Woolies.

She wrote to Woolworths, whose customer relations department told her they were ‘amazed’ the bulb had lasted so long.

Valerie said: ‘It’s a great shame that the light is going out on Woolies. You could buy most of what you wanted there at reasonable prices and our children lovedit, too.

‘The bulb my mother bought all those years ago still lights up, although I am very careful not to drop it on the rare occasions that I show it to people.

‘The bulb survived the blackout and the Blitz and several moves by our family, and was burning when my sister was born in the Second World War.

‘Although I am very sad to see Woolworths go, at least the wonder of Woolies shines on through our little bulb.’

Woolworths will close its first shops next Saturday.

The remainder are expected to shut in January with the loss of the jobs of all 27,000 permanent and temporary staff if no last-minute buyer can be found by the troubled company’s administrators.

Cliffhanger: School buses dangle 20ft over motorway after sliding across ice

Two school buses narrowly avoided plummeting onto a motorway after sliding across ice and smashing though a railings above the busy road.

The pair of coaches, which were each carrying 80 pupils, were left perilously dangling 20ft above fast-moving traffic in Seattle.

In a scene reminiscent of the end of the 1969 film The Italian Job, passengers were left crippled with fear as the buses ominously wobbled over the edge.

‘I grabbed the person next to me and prayed to God we didn’t fly,’ said Stephanie Jackson, 17, who was heading home from a job-training conference yesterday.

‘There was just panic everywhere,’ said Jesse Till, 20. ‘I don’t think I should be here right now, but I’m really happy that I am.’

The accident happened as bus drivers looked for a way to avoid steeper streets that had been closed because of snow and ice.

As soon as the first bus turned onto the street, it slid all the way down the hill, through the intersection and into the guardrail above the motorway.

The bus stopped with two wheels hanging over the four-lane road.

The second bus followed the first, sliding down the hill and into the guardrail to the side of the first bus.

Passengers had been heading from Moses Lake, in central Washington, to a downtown terminal.

Eleven of the teenagers were taken to hospital with minor injuries from debris and flying glass, a Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman said.

Two others suffered minor injuries, but were treated on the scene.

The passengers jumped or climbed out emergency windows before aid crews arrived.

Neither bus was in much danger of falling from the clifftop, but motorway lanes were closed as a precaution.

By evening, tow trucks had pulled both buses back from the edge

Several passengers said the second bus pushed the first farther over the edge.

Desperate Chinese sailors fight off Somali pirates with beer bottles and Molotov cocktails

Bent down low to avoid being shot, this Chinese sailor lights a Molotov cocktail before throwing it overboard at Somali pirates.

Lined up before him are dozens of others he and his shipmates prepared in order to fight off the attackers as they boarded their ship in the Gulf of Aden.

The Zhenhua 4 cargo ship had earlier sent out a distress call as it realised it was being chased by pirates in speedboats armed with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.

The attack occurred a day after Beijing said it was considering sending warships to the area to help battle piracy.

Another picture shows crew members gathered on deck who tried to repel the boarders with water cannon and beer bottles.

Despite their best efforts the nine pirates clambered aboard after tying up alongside. The 30 Chinese crew then locked themselves in their accommodation area -which includes their sleeping rooms, mess rooms and recreation area - to prevent the bandits from entering the ship itself.

The ship's captain, Peng Weiyuan, told Chinese TV that the crew used 'water cannon, self-made incendiary bombs, beer bottles and other missiles to fight the pirates' during the five-hour stand-off.

'Thirty minutes later, the pirates gestured to us for a ceasefire then the helicopters from the joint fleet came to our help.'

The helicopters had been sent from a Malaysian warship after responding to the distress call sent to the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur.

After blasting the pirates with gunfire, the bandits clambered back into their speedboats and made off back to their coastal hideout.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said the Zhenhua 4 was attacked at 0443GMT on Wednesday. It belongs to China Communications Construction Co., and is registered in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.

The assault occurred in the same area where a Malaysian-owned tugboat and a Turkish vessel were seized Tuesday, said Noel Choong, who heads the piracy reporting centre.

Choong said the bureau quickly sought help from a multicoalition naval force, which dispatched the helicopters and a warship to the area.

'Two helicopters arrived at the scene first and helped deter the hijacking. They fired at the pirates, forcing them to flee the ship. Nobody was injured,' he said.

'The Chinese ship is very fortunate to have escaped. This is a rare case where pirates have successfully boarded the ship but failed to hijack it,' he added.

Somali pirates have hijacked over 40 vessels off Somalia's coastline this year.

Many of the seizures took place in the Gulf of Aden that lies between Somalia and Yemen - one of the world's busiest waterways with about 20,000 ships sailing through each year.

Wednesday's attempt is the latest in a rising number of attacks by Somali pirates on Chinese vessels. In November, a Chinese fishing vessel was attacked while off the coast of Kenya.

Spurred by widespread poverty in their homeland, which hasn't had a functioning government for nearly two decades, Somali pirates are evading an international naval flotilla to intercept huge tankers, freighters and other ships to hold for ransom.

Including Wednesday's violence, Choong said there have so far been 109 attacks this year off the coast of Somalia, with 42 hijackings.

Fourteen vessels are still with pirates with a total of 240 crew members as hostages.

He said since last Friday, there were also three other reported attacks in the vicinity on a Singapore oil tanker, Italian cargo ship and a Greek vessel, but all managed to escape after intervention by the multicoalition force.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to authorise nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases on the coast of Somalia.

'The area is just too wide to patrol. Hopefully with the UN resolution, there will be more firm action to stop this menace,' Choong said.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told the Security Council that China was considering sending warships to the Gulf of Aden, where they would join ships from the US, Russia, Denmark, Italy and other countries.

'China is seriously considering sending naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast for escorting operations in the near future,' He said, according to a transcript of his comments posted on the Foreign Ministry's website.

A naval researcher, Professor Li Jie, told the state-run China Daily newspaper that dispatching China's navy would increase its prominence on the world stage.

'Apart from fighting pirates, another key goal is to register the presence of the Chinese navy,' he said.

China's navy is mainly intended for coastal defence and has little experience operating away from its home ports.

Cancer causing dioxins found in Irish beef - but some products are already on UK shelves

Irish beef contaminated with illegal levels of dioxins has made its way into stores and kitchens in Britain, it was revealed yesterday.

The revelation follows test results confirming that beef from animals on 21 cattle farms in the Irish Republic was contaminated.

The tests were carried out following concerns that an earlier contamination of pork products from farms in Ireland could also have involved Irish beef.

Tests on Irish pork found dioxin contamination at 80-200 times the legally permitted level.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said yesterday that the level of dioxin found in four beef examples was actually higher than the figure seen in pork.

Irish authorities have ordered the destruction of hundreds of cattle on the 21 beef farms. Beef produced from these farms is also being destroyed.

However, it has emerged that some meat from these farms has already reached consumers in the UK.

Despite the revelation, the UK's Food Standards Agency said there is no recall of the beef and it takes the view there is no risk to the public from eating the meat.

A spokesman said: 'The number of animals affected in this incident represents less than 1 per cent of the Republic of Ireland's national herd.

'The majority of the meat from these animals has been held but a small amount of affected meat may have entered the UK food chain.

'This meat is likely to have reached consumers but the risk to human health from consuming this is very low.'

Studies suggest that only high-level exposure to dioxins over many years can increase the risk of cancer and damage to the immune and reproductive systems.

Ireland's food safety authority said that while the dioxin levels were higher than pork, the fact people eat less beef means that the likely level of exposure for a consumer would be much lower.

The Irish authorities are desperate to avoid beef being tainted because the trade is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the economy.

Pictured: The tree shaped like a giant Christmas pudding... made by Mr and Mrs Holley

Some households' Christmas decorations get more elaborate every year, but one couple has really taken the cake.

The budding topiarists, who happen to have the festive surname Holley, have unveiled a tree clipped into the shape of a giant Christmas pudding.

The 20ft-high conifer - complete with lashings of cream, huge holly leaves and big red berries - looks good enough to eat.

It took Roger and Valerie Holley five years to prune the evergreen into the perfectly round shape it is today.

The couple achieved the life-like effect by spraying the branch tips with diluted white emulsion paint, using plywood for the leaves and attaching toilet ballcocks for the berries.

The tree has become a much-loved local landmark in the front garden of their three-bedroom detached home in Yeovil, Somerset.

Grandfather-of-two Roger, 60, said: 'We're so proud of our Christmas pudding. It's taken a lot of work to make it look this good, but the effort was worth it.

'The tree is a real favourite with the neighbours, and the local schoolchildren just love it.

'It's become something of a local phenomenon among residents, who say it looks good enough to eat.'

The incredible pudding is made up of two 25-year-old conifers which Roger merged together to make a 'single' tree.

Roger and Valerie, both keen gardeners, began pruning the tree into its round shape five years ago.

They spent hours every summer intertwining its boughs and trimming its tips to give it the cylindrical shape.

Retired Roger, who worked at nearby Yeovil District Hospital, said he was given the idea to transform it into a pudding by his 10-year-old granddaughter.

Father-of-two Roger said: 'She took one look at the tree and said 'That looks like a massive Christmas pudding!'.

'So we decided to take things a bit further and decorate it appropriately. Little did we know that it would become something of a tradition. We're now into our fifth year.'

Using stepladders, Roger begins the annual transformation by balancing an old car tyre on the top of the tree which he uses as a base.

Under this he slides two 3ft-long painted plywood leaves, before tying four red plastic ballcock berries to the wheel.

He then uses diluted white emulsion paint for the cream, which he sprays on using a hand-held gun.

The entire creation is lit up at night using specially adapted Christmas tree lights which he slots into the berries and the leaves.

Valerie, 64, a retired housewife, said: 'It's a very unusual thing to have in your front garden, I admit.

'But to see the children's faces as they walk past it is a real treat. It's our present to the community.'