A CAKE decorator who was forced to seek a new career after a life-changing illness is thanking villagers with a festive day out after the success of her driveway business.

Nicola Littlejohn, 50, of Swan Street, Sible Hedingham, opened a mobile tea room called Violet the Vintage Caravan on her drive last month.

The mum-of-two has been a cake decorator since 2015.

She first took up the art after giving birth to son William 12 years ago.

Nicola was left in a life-threatening condition after suffering a brain haemorrhage before his birth, forcing doctors to perform an emergency caesarean.

Husband Marc was told to prepare for the worst but Nicola pulled through against the odds.

But William now needs round-the-clock care after being diagnosed with autism.

Sadly, the ordeal also affected Nicola’s memory, making it impossible to return to an office job when she was well enough to go back to work.

She discovered her new ideal career after making cupcakes for her son’s school fair,

After launching bespoke designer cake decorating business NJL Creations, Nicola opened her own mobile tea room in May 2019.

She toured the area’s markets with Violet the Vintage Caravan, which is named after her grandmother.

But the pandemic has taken a massive toll on Nicola and her family in recent months.

Marc, who works as a critical care nurse, contracted Covid-19 and was separated from the family for ten weeks after moving to live and work at his hospital.

The lockdown also had a massive impact on the wedding industry, meaning Nicola lost almost all her business.

She decided to open Violet the Vintage Caravan on her driveway and says she had been overwhelmed by support from residents.

Nicola said: “After losing all my business this year I decided to open Violet on my drive to serve my homemade cakes, savouries, hot food and drinks.

“I am based in Sible Hedingham and with the wonderful support of the village it has become an amazing success.”

Nicola has now decided to repay the village by hosting a Santa’s grotto event.

She is coverting their home’s cartlodge into a grotto to raise money for the Braintree Area Foodbank, at St Andrew’s Church in Halstead.

Children are invited to meet Santa on December 5-6.

The prospective event has proven to be a hit with residents with 132 children expected to visit and slots filling up within just 30 minutes.

Nicola added: "This year, as a thank you to the villagers and because of the lack of grottoes and the cost of those that are open, we have decided to convert our cartlodge into a grotto and on the 5th and 6th of December we have 132 children coming to visit.

"We are not charging to see Santa or for the children to receive a gift, but if anyone would like to make a donation, these will be going to the Halstead food bank".

However, the event hinges on the current national lockdown which is expected to end at the end of the month.

Nicola says the event could be cancelled though if the Government decides to extend the lockdown.

She said:"We hope the grotto will be an annual event, and we really hope we are out of lockdown and are able to do it this year.

"If we can't then the children will still get their gifts hand delivered to their home by one of our Elves."

For more information, visit facebook.com/violetthevintagecaravan/.