Braunton lollipop couple are top of the pops
A LOLLIPOP couple have retired after being top of the pops for three generations of Braunton schoolchildren. Come rain or shine, Lena and Bernard Blake have been helping youngsters to cross the road safely to Southmead School and the nearby community coll
A LOLLIPOP couple have retired after being top of the pops for three generations of Braunton schoolchildren.
Come rain or shine, Lena and Bernard Blake have been helping youngsters to cross the road safely to Southmead School and the nearby community college for more than 40 years between them.
Lena, 71, took over school crossing patrol duties in Exeter Road in 1978, while husband Bernard, 75, started the Wrafton Road patrol in 1997. The couple have decided to call it a day after 32 and 13 years respectively, and were given an emotional send-off before taking care of their final patrol on Thursday.
They were given a fond farewell at a special school assembly by pupils at Southmead School on Thursday morning. Youngsters presented flowers and long service certificates and wrote messages on specially made lollipops to give to the couple. Among the tributes, pupils wrote: "Mr Blake gives everyone a 'high five' when he sees them; he's always funny and makes everyone laugh." Another read: "If you're feeling lonely, Mrs Blake always says hello and asks how you are. They always have a smile on their faces; thank-you for helping us to get to school safely."
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The couple moved to North Devon from Southall, Middlesex, in 1974. Lena, who had retired from her career with the RAF police, said she only intended to do the job for a couple of years. Bernard, a former telephone engineer, worked as a hospital porter at North Devon District Hospital for 24 years before taking early retirement at 62. He then worked at Southmead School as a cleaner and mealtime assistant before taking over school crossing patrol duties.
"I gradually got to know the children and the parents and I've been doing it ever since," said Lena. "I've now seen three generations across the road over the years and just the other day, saw a grandmother, daughter and granddaughter that I'd helped across all at the same time."
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Despite "several" near misses with speeding cars - and the perils of snow, rain and wind that once blew so hard it took off the sports hall roof - the couple said they had enjoyed every moment but the time had come to retire.
"We will miss everyone very much," said Lena. "The children are adorable, especially the little ones - and the big ones are not so bad either!"
South Mead head teacher Gill Gillett, said: "Southmead School has always been proud of its links with the community and Lena and Bernard have been at the heart of that link for many, many years; we wish them well and will miss then."
Devon County Council's school crossing coordinator Andrew Eagles said: "Lena and Bernard have more than 40 years' experience between them which is an extraordinary achievement. Braunton will not be the same without them."
Mr Eagles said that while a replacement had been found for the Exeter Road crossing, the council was actively looking to recruit two further patrols, one for Wrafton Road and another as temporary cover for both crossings.
Anyone interested in either vacancy is asked to contact Mr Eagles on (01392) 382247.