LOVE was in the air at an Alresford care home as Hampshire's first same sex couple to enter a civil partnership celebrated their joint 20-year work anniversary.

The management team at Old Alresford Cottage Care Home organised a barbecue for married team members Darren and Heath Saunders to mark the special occasion.

Current and previous staff members came together on July 6 to celebrate the duo's happy 20 years working together at the home.

Darren and Heath met in 1998 when Darren interviewed his future partner to be a housekeeper in another nursing home.

Darren said: "That’s where it all started for us, when I interviewed Heath. On July 6, 2002, we both moved over to Old Alresford Cottage. We just fell in love with it here, we were the first permanent night staff at the home and have been dedicated and loyal ever since. We both care so much about the home, we’re one big happy family."

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Sam Binfield-Woods, deputy manager at Old Alresford Cottage, said: "I worked with Darren and Heath on their very first shift, I was Team Leader at the time, and we got on well right from the start. 20 years later and we all still work in the same place, I’ve now been Deputy Manager for 14 years and the saying is true, time does fly when you’re having fun."

On Valentine’s Day in 2006, the couple became the first same sex couple in Hampshire to enter into civil partnership.

"We were also the first same sex couple in the county to get married, which we did on the February 13, 2015, and then we were the first same sex couple to renew their vows which we did on the October 5, 2016," he said.

"The team at Old Alresford Cottage have looked after us with support and training over the last 20 years, especially throughout the Covid pandemic. We are, and will always be, very dedicated, caring and loyal staff."

Michael Larmour, manager at the 44-bedroom facility, said: "It’s been great working with Darren and Heath over the years, they’ve always been inseparable and work so well together. They are both true assets to our team here at Old Alresford Cottage and we’re forever grateful for their loyalty and dedication, especially following the challenges of the pandemic. We can’t wait to celebrate their next 20 years with us!"

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