Hundreds of children welcomed Father Christmas when he opened a grotto that will raise money for the needy in Sussex.

Crowds gathered in Pavilion Gardens, Brighton, to watch Santa set off on a lunchtime tour of the city centre before he arrived at his Gingerbread House grotto, next to Donatello restaurant in The Lanes on Saturday.

Two horses pulled his carriage through the streets.

First to meet him in his grotto were Aimie and Emma Wood and Carmen Addis.

They were followed by dozens more children, who were given early Christmas presents.

All money raised at the grotto will go to The Argus Appeal, which provides financial help to charities and people in need.

The 5,000 children and their families who visited last year raised £25,000, which went towards buying the Gingerbread mini-bus used by local charities.

Appeal co-ordinator Elsa Gillio said: "This is it. Father Christmas has arrived and we're off. We will be very happy if it is as successful this time."

The grotto is open from 10.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Those making the Gingerbread House possible are: Legal & General, the sponsors and Sue and Pietro Addis, of Donatello, for providing the building.

Colin and Geoff Thomas of EPS Newhaven for their polystyrene figures; Kerry and Evan of Bramble and Co gift shop in Brighton Square for the loan of decorations and the winter wonderland window display; Ron, Steve and the carpentry students of City College, Brighton, who built the house; Des Pywowar for working on the roof top display; Malcolm Dockerill of Dockerills for supplying and fitting equipment; Norman Mayhew of Sussex Signs, Newhaven, for his help with the soldiers; Gamleys for supplying the toys; Woodstock Crafts of Brighton Road, Shoreham, for the miniature window display; staff from American Express who painted and glittered the house; builders merchant Travis Perkins for supplying materials; Harvey's of Hove for supplying the costumes and Brighton City Centre Business Forum for arranging for Father Christmas to arrive in the city in style.

Not forgetting "Mr Fixit" Paul Fowler.