A married couple with 95 years of nursing service between them are retiring to take a walk on the wild side.

Hilary and John Mills will be sorely missed by colleagues and residents at Pendine Park’s Highfield Care Home in Wrexham.

Hilary has worked for the group for 19 years and John for 12 years. But the pair who met in their teens when they were student nurses have both now reached retirement age.

When not working they have always loved being outdoors enjoying leisure time in the countryside and are keen walkers.

So, they are looking forward to swapping their nursing scrubs for hiking boots and say one of their first ports of call post retirement will be the wild hills of Keswick for a refreshing break taking in the scenic landscape around the Lake District.

After so many years of nursing they are sad to be saying farewell to their many work friends and the families of Highfield residents who they have come to know well during their years at Pendine Park.

But the couple are confident that much loved patients will be in good hands.

Hilary said: “One of the most rewarding parts of our time at Pendine Park has been to welcome promising new, young staff members into the team and see them grow in ability and develop their careers. There are some excellent highly skilled nurses here.”

Hilary who celebrated her 66th birthday on March 17 started at Highfield 19 years ago while John, also 66, was recruited a little later – 12 years ago – by Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE.

John said: “Technically I had already taken retirement from my job with the care homes quality commission which inspects and monitors nursing standards in care homes nationally but Mario commissioned me for a special project and after that finished he offered me a job staying on as a nurse. I’ve never regretted it. There’s a real family ethos at Pendine.”

John and Hilary say even though they were approaching retirement they have never stopped learning throughout their successful careers and that has been particularly the case in the last few years.

Hilary said: “With all the difficulties care homes generally have faced resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns we have all had to adapt our thinking and our skills-sets to contend with the ever-changing situation.

“It’s been a challenging two years during which we’ve learned new skills, and different ways of approaching tasks. we’ve really had to be at the top of our game to protect our patients.”

She and her husband say they have many happy memories of working at Highfield and meeting its diverse array of characters.

Hilary said: “Working in a care home is different than a hospital as the patients are here long term so in many cases we get to know them over a number of years and develop a close bond with them. We have had the honour of meeting some wonderful people all with different and interesting life stories to tell.”

Hilary and John are both originally from South Wales but moved to North Wales in the 1980s and now live in Pandy, near Wrexham.

Hilary grew up in Cwmbran and did her nursing training art Bridgend General Hospital, while John, from the Rhondda, trained at the Royal Gwent Hospital.

Having met as students they married 45 years ago when John was 19 and Hilary was 18.

Hilary said: “Nursing was a vocation for both of us. We were lucky that we knew from the start that this was the career we wanted to do.

“Eventually we were married just two weeks after I was fully qualified.”

They now have two grown up daughters, Sarah and Rebekah, who each have a young son.

As well as walking and exploring the countryside Hilary and John are excited that they will now have more time to spend with their two grandsons, Zac aged 12 and Jonah, eight.

Fellow staff at Highfield organised flowers and a cake to mark the couple’s retirement.

Pendine Park trainer Laura Shone said: “John and Hilary have been here such a long time. They are much loved by staff, residents and their families.

“We will all miss them deeply but we wish them many happy times in retirement. We know they will keep in touch and we look forward to hearing all about their hiking treks and other adventures in retirement.”

Highfield deputy manager Terri Broderick added: “We are naturally sad to see Hilary and John leave us but we wish them both a long and happy retirement.

“We are grateful for the brilliant service they have given us in caring for our beloved residents and they have been excellent role models for the new generation coming through, so their legacy will remain.”