ASHBOURNE is saying a fond farewell to one of its much-loved dentists, after 40 years of caring for the town's smiles.
Paul Winfield, originally from Sussex, moved to the area as a nine-year-old when his father left service in the Royal Navy and relocated to Uttoxeter.
A former pupil of Thomas Alleyne's Grammar School, one of his earliest memories of Ashbourne was on a school trip to Dovedale, when he was intrigued by a display of tinned octopus in Bagnall's delicatessen, in Victoria Square.
He left school in 1968 to follow a dream he had held since the age of 13 and to take up his place at King's College Hospital Dental School, in London.
He graduated with honours at Christmas 1973, after almost five and a half years of study. He feels that his arrival in Ashbourne was a stroke of luck, as, having applied for half a dozen positions in London, he spotted a vacancy for a dentist in the town and added it to his list.
He explained: "I had packed up the car to make the long drive home for Christmas but, having forgotten the food for the journey, I doubled back to retrieve my picnic, only to find a letter sitting on the doormat from the Ashbourne dentists, Mr CBW Taylor (Bard) and Mr John Pugh, inviting me to 'drop in and have a chat and a look around'."
He was instantly hooked. He says he has never regretted his decision to accept the position and counts himself as a lucky man to have found his perfect job.
The early days are still very clear in his mind. He says he was probably more frightened of his patients in those first few weeks than they were of him.
He recalls one rather sweet elderly lady arriving to see him for a check-up, but was dismayed when he saw her a few weeks later in John Pugh's surgery.
Being anxious that he had done something wrong, he was jovially reassured by John that, although she "found Mr Winfield a very polite young man, he was perhaps not quite old enough to understand her teeth".
A few months later, though, the "apprentice in the back room", smiled to himself when another patient reported that he had previously been treated by the "old gentleman with grey hair" – John Pugh himself.
Paul hopes that he has since filled the role of that "older gentleman", but cannot believe where the intervening years have gone.
During that time, he has made many close friends and he knows that he has been blessed with some wonderful patients, one of whom was to become his wife, Ingrid.
They have been together 32 years and have seen their four children grow up. Their youngest, Lizzie, has taken up the torch and is now a Captain in the Royal Army Dental Corps, at present serving in Germany.
Paul and Ingrid are now relocating to Norfolk to be near family and friends. He hopes to be able to indulge his love of painting, sculpture, gardening and quizzes.
Over his time in Ashbourne, Paul has seen many changes to both his chosen profession and to the town.
He said: "I will take with me many treasured memories of my time here, my marvellous patients and especially of my loyal and very supportive partners and staff, with whom I have worked over the last 40 years.
"I wish them all the very best for the future and the same to my successor, Dr Patrick Carroll, who I'm sure will carry on the tradition of good service and family dentistry in Ashbourne.
"So many of them have become close friends over the years – and of course, that's how I met Ingrid, so I will always have fond memories of my time here.
"Things have changed immensely in the world of dentistry over the last 40 years but one thing that has stayed the same is the friendship and loyalty of the clients."