A CHILDREN'S nursery is shutting its doors after three decades of childcare amid news that its founder is retiring.

Lakeman Hall Nursery, in Chesham Lane, Chalfont St Peter, which was established in 1978 by Jeanne Stephen, 68, (pictured with nursery chiodren) of Chesham Lane, will close on Wednesday July 21.

Mrs Stephen trained as a nursery nurse before setting up her own business when the opportunity to use the building came along.

Even though she is registered blind, Mrs Stephen has peripheral vision and carries out the same work as the other staff such as putting out toys.

She also has a guide dog called Tumble which helps her walk to and from work and plays with the children.

The group was initially based in Lakeman House with 10 children but as it grew, it moved to nearby Lakeman Hall in the early 1980s.

Mrs Stephen said: "In its hey day the nursery was looking after 100 children. I wanted someone to take it over so I could work voluntarily.

"I have worked with children for 53 years and have run Lakeman Hall for 32 of them.

"It is a privilege to have been a part of so many children’s lives. I have enjoyed working with all the children and their families and would do it all again if I could.”

"My special thanks to my staff, past and present, without whom Lakeman Hall would not have been such a special place. I had a girl attend playgroup when she was two years old. She is now a mother of five boys, who have all attended Lakeman Hall; the youngest will be with us until it closes.

"I am very sad to be closing. I wanted Lakeman Hall to go on and on. I will not miss the paperwork, but I will miss everyone."

The decision to close the nursery came after building was earmarked for eventual demolition by owner the National Society for Epilepsy (NSE) and no parties wanted a short-term only lease.

A farewell celebration will be held on Friday July 9 and a toy and equipment sale has been organised for June 15 between 12.30pm and 5pm.

The NSE said in a statement: "NSE's care homes are currently being redeveloped and in order to fund this redevelopment, NSE has always said it will need to sell some of the land to the south of its estate.

"NSE’s redevelopment strategy was communicated to the current tenant in 2004 and we have met with the tenant on several occasions since to update on our plans.

"We have needed to maintain some flexibility regarding the sale of the land and for that reason the current tenant has been aware that from mid-2010 the lease would only be renewed on a month-by-month basis.

"We understand that the current tenant, Jean Stephen, is retiring, and we wish her the very best in her retirement."

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