A CARING couple who took the spirit of Christmas to the streets of Saddleworth have received a top community accolade.

Villages were “invaded” by scores of tiny hand-knitted angels to celebrate Christmas with messages: “Give Love Away”, “Peace on Earth”, “God bless you”, “Bringing good news” and “Blessings be with you.”

The initiative was driven by unassuming Rev Gary Ridley, Methodist Minister for Saddleworth and District, and his wife Debbie from Dobcross, who hosted the Churches Together in Saddleworth scheme.

And the 2,000 tiny figures were praised for bringing festive cheer and good wishes to the community.

The couple worked with special coordinators from each church, arranging a distribution programme to ensure the angels popped up across a wider area.

Each angel was hand-knitted by various groups associated with the churches, and came in a different colour with its own unique message.

Locals praised the scheme with many posting comments and pictures on social media. One said: "My children found an angel. They were thrilled.” Another read: “ They're all over the place... Gary and Debbie have been accepted as the true symbol of Christmas.”

One voluntary knitter and coordinator said: “The response by volunteers to knit for the scheme was overwhelming. The project has really touched a nerve in our communities. It’s very gratifying.”

Rev Ridley and his wife were presented with their by John Warham, chair of the Dobcross Village Community, who said: “They were pleased embarrassed and humbled to receive the award.”

And Rev John Rosedale, chair of Churches Together, said: “This has brought people together from across the churches and has encouraged old and new alike to get out their knitting needles.

“Shopkeepers and others have embraced the ldea of having them as free gifts on their business premises and I understand that at least one of the Chemist's who do home delivery of prescriptions took them out with the prescriptions.

“These small gifts have brought smiles to the faces of people across the ages. In 2018, I witnessed the children in Delph coming out of school and finding the angels on the the bench and railings in the village centre, to see their excitement and pleasure is something difficult to describe. Such a small thing bringing so much pleasure to so many people.”