PATIENTS past and present have been invited to celebrate a well-known optometrist's 30th year in business with a delicious afternoon tea party today.

Vera Wilton Optometrists, in Market Street, Dalton, has been at the heart of the community since 1986, when a 33-year-old mother of two decided to venture into the unknown by setting up her first business.

Three decades later and Mrs Wilton's "baby" is all grown up and still going strong under the ownership of husband and wife duo Laura and Mark Roberts.

READ MORE: Guild gives sight to the needy in Ethiopia

The 63-year-old who lives in Gleaston, said: "At the time the children were quite small and I had the opportunity to buy the practice. I started off part-time with just three rooms but over time it became bigger and grew from there.

"I thought we might stay part time but we ended up going full time and I've seen my baby become an even bigger baby which has grown up with my family over the years."

Mrs Wilton sold the practice five years ago but her name remains above the door and she still pops in to work two days a week.

By reducing her hours, the 63-year-old has been able to plough more time and effort into her other job role which has seen her travel to Ethiopia every year since 2004 as a trustee for Vision Aid Overseas.

Armed with knowledge of the profession, she offers aspiring optometry students in one of the world's poorest countries a wealth of advice and expertise.

She said: "I am very lucky that I can transfer my skills to students in these developing countries and I enjoy working with such an enthusiastic group of young students."

The optician has put the success of the business down to the personal touch that they offer and is looking forward to seeing her brainchild grow even bigger in years to come.

Mrs Wilton added: "The staff are all local girls and because we provide that personal service it helps us to stand out and make a difference. The people of Dalton couldn't have better and it really is a lovely place to work.

"I am more than confident that the business will go on for another 30 years. Laura and Mark are a great team and with a few improvements of their own I am sure it will go on for years to come and the people of Dalton will be looked after."

Tea and prosecco will be served throughout the day and customers can secure a 30 per cent discount off the complete range of silhouette spectacles as part of the occasion.

There will also be a raffle containing the following items which have been donated by generous members of the community:-

- Afternoon tea for two at Clarence House

- One litre bottle of Famous Grouse whisky (donated by Dalton Co-op)

- Two bottles of prosecco (donated by Bargain Booze in Dalton)

- One pair of Maui Jim polarised sunglasses

- £10 Hartleys voucher

- £20 TP Framework voucher

- Essence Nail & Beauty back massage

- £10 Brown Cow voucher

- Ted Baker perfume collection