THE festive season is well and truly under way - and many of us will be putting up our trees in the coming days.

Think Christmas trees in Colchester and it probably won’t take you long to get to the Smith family - their history is interlinked with Christmas time and, to be specific, trees.

For more than half a century, the family business has been supplying festive pines to thousands of homes across the district from its six-acre farm in Boxted.

And for most of that time they have also donated trees to the town council, Colchester General Hospital and a number of charities, including St Helena Hospice, each year.

Customers over the years have even included, as seen here, Butlins holiday camp.

Fred Smith, who sadly died several years ago, started the business in 1961 and it is now run by his son Tim with the help of his wife Beverley and their children George and Penny.

Tim explains the family started out almost six decades ago as market farmers, growing and selling potatoes, cabbages and carrots from

their farm.

But a chance offer led to a whole new venture and took the family in an entirely different, and Christmassy, direction.

Tim says : “A neighbour of ours offered my dad a few pine trees and he planted them and they took really well and it went from there.

“Soon it became the main part of the business,” adds Tim.

Over the years, Tim admits one of the things he and his family have loved to do is to enjoy the quiet times between Christmas and New Year to drive around and see the trees they have donated or sold once they have all been decorated.

“We really like to do that.

“Some of them just look spectacular, they really do,” he says.

Christmas trees have been a festive tradition since the 16th century and one many of us would not want to celebrate without.

Tim now plants trees across about ten acres of land and there are thousands of healthy trees in situ.

Trees are grown for 12 to 15 years before they are harvested although some are allowed to grow for up to 40 years.

Norway Spruce, Blue Spruce and Nordmann Fir are the favoured varieties.

The trees are cut or sold with roots so they can be replanted after Christmas.

Fred’s son, Tim, now runs the family business.

He said: “We have more and more people who have gone back from plastic to the real thing and this is their first real tree.

“They like the smell, they might come with the idea of getting one with a root on and they finish up having it cut and put in a stand.

“During the weekends we’re so busy here, we might have 20 or 30 people here, and it’s easier and better for them to walk into the yard and pick the tree.”