AN award-winning Chester nursery set up more than 30 years ago has been sold.

Smarties, near Stamford Bridge, has been purchased by the Scotland-based Bertram Nursery Group.

The chain has a number of nurseries north of the border as well as in the North West of England.

Qualified teacher Annie Silcock founded Smarties 32 years ago and although she is planning to retire, she will continue working as a consultant within the early years sector.

The nursery has been awarded ‘outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted in its last four inspections.

It was also awarded UK Nursery of the Year by the National Day Nursery Association (NDNA) back in 2018.

Bertram chief executive officer Cary Rankin said: “Smarties is a beautiful nursery with wonderful, carefully planned, outdoor facilities that we will continue to grow and develop in line with our shared vision for outdoor learning.

"We believe learning outside is hugely beneficial for children and we plan to increase the range of outdoor activities offered.

"Smarties is a gem and we are delighted that Annie has entrusted us with her legacy.

"We are excited to move forward with the team and build on the excellent partnerships with parents and schools that ensure every child can thrive and develop."

Annie Silcock said: “The last 32 years have been amazing and I wouldn't have changed them for the world. I realised I needed to find someone to develop Smarties with the love, care and vision I have had.

"In Bertram Nursery Group, I have found my ideal successors. We share the same ethos and values regarding our approach to our people and childcare.

"They feel it is important that nurseries in the group retain their individual character and Bertram have an exciting long-term vision for developing one of the best outdoor provisions in the UK."

Smarties provides places for more than 100 children aged from three months to five years and is set in more than two acres of grounds, providing outdoor activities and a beautiful grand tepee tent.

It also runs a holiday club for older children.