A RETIRED couple responsible for one of the most beloved Christmas trees in the UK are appealing for help from Redditch residents.

Avril Rowlands and her husband Christopher put a 6ft fir in their front garden after enjoying their first Christmas at their new home in 1978.

That tree has now grown to 52ft and towers above their four-bedroom detached house in Inkberrow.

Last year the couple celebrated the monster fir's 41st anniversary when they switched on the dazzling decorations.

However, they have only just taken down the lights - and realised many are damaged.

Retired TV writer Avril said: "Because of the recent gales we’ve only just been able to get the lights off the tree with the aid of S.E. Davis, who very kindly put the top lights on and take them off with the aid of their cherry picker.

"The lights we use are the old fashioned Noma or Woolworth 20 or 40 sets of outside lights, wired in series, and we’ve found a lot of damage to the bulbs and wiring."

She added: "We're after some of these sets which people might no longer want. We’d be happy to buy them even if they aren’t working.

"We can’t move to modern LEDs – not only because they wouldn’t survive on a 50ft tree in high winds, but also because they don’t have that slightly magical effect we get by slightly under-running the bulbs. Some of the lights on the tree are over 40 years old."

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Incredibly, the lit-up tree is the only landmark visible in the village which is one of the darkest places in Britain.

Inkberrow - where the 17th century pub is the inspiration for The Bull in Radio 4 series The Archers - is one of a handful of places which doesn't have any street lights.

As a result the giant tree can be seen from a mile away at night.

Avril, said: "The switch-on event has become an absolute institution for the village and we have hundreds of people see the tree.

"We've even had tourists coming from as far as China to have their pictures taken by the tree."

The couple moved to the quiet village in the summer of 1978 after selling their home in London.

Avril said: "It is amazing to think that the tree started as a 6ft tall sapling which we bought for just £6.

"I remember after that first Christmas thinking to myself that I didn't want to just throw the tree out so I planted it in the front garden.

"It took straight away and every year it's just grown taller and taller.

"It now takes 1,100 to light the tree, I don't look at the electricity bill until after Christmas."

The couple's annual switch-on of their lights has now become a tradition and they use the event to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

Anyone who would like to donate any unwanted lights can visit avrilrowlands.co.uk/christmas for more.