CLOSE neighbours Edith Powell and Muriel Steele played together as schoolgirls, went to dances together, grieved together and now share their lives together.
Now in their seventies, the women have lived two doors from each other in Ashton Hayes for the past seven years and have never been out of contact for more than a few days.
'We always know where the other is if we want something,' says Muriel. 'We have always been together - Edith is just nice and friendly and we can tell one another things that you wouldn't tell other people.' Edith adds she trusts Muriel's discretion, saying: 'I can talk to her about things and know it won't go any further. She is always there if I want a lift anywhere - she never says no.'
The two women are a familiar sight around their neighbourhood and Muriel says they do many things together.
'We visit people who are ill and send them cards - people always receive a 'get well soon' card from Muriel and Edith,' she said.
'We come in on a Monday and have a chat then go down to the hairdressers.
On Fridays we go to parties together and we have always gone to church together and gone on the socials.
'We see each other most days - if I want anything I come to Edith and she comes to me.'
Edith said their friendship was particularly important to her when, at the age of 27, she lost her husband Alan when he had a fatal asthma attack just four years after they married.
She said: 'I had two girls aged three and four months. Muriel and other friends helped me by going out with me and including me in things that they went to really.'
They also have fond memories of escapades from their youth. 'One occasion that sticks in my mind was that it was very cold and in our school lunch-time we went down to slide around on frozen water at the bottom of a pit,' said Muriel. 'We were all late back and the schoolmaster didn't half have some names for us.'
They particularly value their long friendship because they have seen so many familiar faces move away from the village - and new faces come in.
Says Edith: 'There are not many people who have lived here as long as we have. There are so many strangers in Ashton Hayes - it's not like it was when we were growing up.'