A remarkable group of 500-plus knitters founded in Haslemere 35 years ago made Christmas Day a little brighter for hundreds of worried new parents with a baby in hospital, with its biggest-ever festive donation of hand-knitted stockings and teddies.

Thanks to the dedication of its team of volunteer knitters, in December the Haslemere BLISS Knitters were able to donate stockings and knits to every single neonatal baby unit in every southern county.

So on Christmas morning more than 1,000 families in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey, West and East Sussex and Kent found a surprise stocking and pretty toy on their baby’s incubator or cot.

Haslemere BLISS was founded in the late 1980s by local woman Dianne Bennett after the arrival of her daughter 13 weeks early and weighing just 2lb 5oz, to support the national charity for premature and poorly newborns.

Responding to a request by the Royal Surrey County Hospital for little hats, within a week of a letter appearing in the Herald, 20 volunteer knitters had signed up. Three decades later, the group now has almost 530 knitters spread across three counties making little blankets, cardigans, hats and boots every year.

Diane (pictured), who went on to serve on the Bliss board for 25 years and was presented with a Lifetime Support Award in 2016, said: “We very much welcome new volunteers who can get in touch by emailing [email protected] or phoning me on 01428 642320.”