Couple reunited with love letters hidden 66 years ago in stately home's tool shed

A couple who have been married more than six decades have been reunited with their love letters 66 years on.

Eric Pashley and Winnie Pettinger's love blossomed during the Second World War.

And now more than 60 years, five children, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandsons later, the couple rediscovered the letters they wrote at the start of their courtship.

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Mr Pashley, a gardener at Nottinghamshire stately home Thoresby Hall, exchanged the notes with Miss Pettinger, who worked there as a parlour maid.

He kept them in an old mustard tin but left them behind in a tool shed when he was sent to Germany on national service.

When he came back, he took a gardening job on a different estate and the box lay undiscovered for nearly seven decades until Andy Mallam, head gardener at what is now the Thoresby Hall Hotel and Spa, found it a month ago.

The hotel eventually traced the couple, who now live in the Vale of Belvoir, Lincolnshire, and yesterday they returned to enjoy a luxury break and be presented with the box and letters.

Mr Pashley, now 82, said: "As a gardener I wasn't allowed to enter the house as it wasn't my position.

"So if anyone was coming out of the house, they would bring a note from Winnie for me."

The letters from his then future wife, addressed to "My dearest darling Eric", talk about snatching moments together for walks or trips to the pictures.

Signed with rows of large kisses, they feature acronyms such as SWALK (Sealed With A Loving Kiss), HOLLAND (Hope Our Love Lasts Long And Never Dies), and BOLTOP (Better on the lips than on paper).

Mrs Pashley, 81, said: "It was a good job working as a parlour maid.

"We got 25 shillings a month, plus our accommodation and there was a good cook."

Mr Pashley, who worked as a gardener for more than 45 years, added: "I used to climb onto the roof of Thoresby Hall, about 60ft high, and lower my messages back on a piece of strong to her window on the third floor."