VOLUNTEERS from two of Saddleworth’s top eateries have served the last of 7,000 meals to the stalwart team at the Royal Oldham Hospital's intensive care unit.

In a letter to the NHS, Charies Brierley, managing director of the White Hart at Lydgate and Dinnerstone, Uppermill, said the Sunday roast beef lunches were the last they could provide as the volunteers would return to work this week in preparation for reopening.

He wrote: “I’d all like to say a big thank you for the risks you’ve taken in caring for everyone, for the long hours and discomfort you’ve endured with the PPE.

“We know that the meals we’ve provided don’t go anywhere near making up for the extra hardship you’ve gone through, it’s just our way of replacing the Thursday night national ‘clap for the NHS’.

“I’m humbled by the approach the team have taken, so I thought I’d share their story with you.

“In March when we first closed, our chefs gave all the perishable produce to local food banks. In addition, the team then unanimously agreed to donate their March tips of £3,000 plus to homeless charities.

“The community came together and helped us raise funds to pay for food that our volunteer team of chefs started to prepare.

“And before we knew it we’d reopened our hotel rooms to isolating NHS staff, preparing evening meals and breakfast along with meals to distribute to the vulnerable in Oldham via AgeUK.

“Over 20 volunteers were now cooking, cleaning and welcoming guests at all hours of the day. Saddleworth Round Table then approached us to provide yourselves with meals and it ramped up again.

“These last 50 Roast Beef lunches for yourselves bring the total of free meals prepared and distributed to over 7,000.”

He added: “I’m humbled by the care shown by volunteers across our small community. Let’s hope the NHS never gets taken for granted; without you, we’d be in a right pickle!

“I hope you continue to stay safe during this pandemic and hope that the public don’t act irresponsibly and cause a second spike.”

And, in a foot note as “some final food for thought” he sent messages from supporters.

Peter Norbury, Lydgate Brass Band Contest chair on behalf of the contest committee, said: “ I would like to say how grateful we are to everyone in ICU for the work you have done to help our communities cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What you have done goes far beyond the call of duty. I am so happy the contest was in a position to use some of the funds raised over the years to support the fantastic Volunteers for Key Workers initiative and provide meals to the ICU, as well as to those less fortunate people in the Oldham area who are supported by AgeUK.”

Jennifer Greenwood, chair of the Love Lydgate committee, declared: “You have been role models for us, staying positive and upbeat in the most trying circumstances, showing resilience and good spirits when things were really stacked against you.

“You showed us the way to deal with the fear and isolation of lockdown. It has been a real privilege to have you in our village.Lydgate loves you.”

John Arthurs, chair of Saddleworth Round Table, said: “Thank you for all the incredible work. We hope this small gesture has helped during these unusual times. Stay safe.”

And Christine Anne Burbidge, of the The Great Saddleworth Get Together fundraiser, added: “I really wanted to say thank you for the fantastic work you’ve all done during the last few months - this is my way of doing just that. A great big thank you”