NIMBLE-FINGERED 91-year-old Florence Compton is a knitter on a mission. The pensioner, who lives in a residential care home in Woodfalls, has almost lost count of the tiny vests she has knitted for the tots in the neonatal intensive care baby unit at Salisbury District Hospital over the last 27 years.

Cautious estimates put the number at around 2000, but Florence reckons it is much higher.

"It was in the parish magazine that they were asking for anyone with spare wool who would like to do it." she said. "When my husband died, I made up my mind I had to do something. I've knitted all my life - I was taught when I was seven or eight - and I can easily knit one up in an afternoon."

Caroline Brunt, head of maternity and neonatal services at the hospital said: "The team are very grateful for the time that Mrs Compton takes to knit small items for our tiniest and sickest babies.

"Some of our smallest babies weigh as little as 2lb or 1kg (the size of a bag of sugar) and the families are so grateful, when with the shock of a preterm delivery, that their baby is provided with these lovely clothes to wear.

"The staff know that they have a supply of items they can rely on. They can give clothes to parents during the babies' stay on the unit and when they go home, as the very small clothes for these babies are difficult to buy in shops and can be very expensive.

"The generosity of Mrs Compton means that many families over the years have benefited. On behalf of the staff, parents and babies, we would like to say a big thank-you."