LES Woodward must have wondered what he'd let himself in for on his first day in a new job 40 years ago.

Les had reported for work on August 20 1980 at a filling station being opened in Williton that day by The County Stores.

Hugh Duder, who headed up the family firm, which used to run a number of stores in the area, had overseen the purchase from Shell of the local petrol station, which had been closed for a period.

In a sign of things to come, the new venture ran out of fuel on the opening day, which coincided with the Bank Holiday.

The day was only saved when a fuel delivery was diverted from Taunton Motorway Services to put Williton Filling Station back in business the following morning.

Les, now 64, is still there and has just celebrated his 'ruby' anniversary, during which time he has risen to the position of manager overseeing five staff.

He had worked for brief periods for Williton Motors and on a building site before the job at Williton Filling Station came up.

Reflecting on his mammoth stint in his current job, he said: "I have been here for so long because I know what I'm doing.

"But the success of the business is giving the customers what they want and is also down to the teamwork of the staff over the years."

Les has seen enormous changes in his time in the job at the outlet, which switched allegiance from Shell to Esso four years ago.

"The biggest change is what people expect from a petrol station," said Les.

"We used to serve customers at the pumps and wore white coats. Self service was a big change.

"People want to pick up a cup of coffee nowadays. And we also have an alcohol licence.

"When I started 40 years ago, we mainly sold car parts, some sweets and soft drinks. Now we sell very few car parts. We're a fully-blown convenience store."

Earlier in his career, Les plucked up the courage to ask fellow cashier Denise out on a date - the couple are about to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary on September 1. They have two grown-up children, Robert and Natalie.

He suffered a health scare five years ago when he went into cardiac arrest at home after checking in a delivery, but he now feels fit and well.

"I've got no plans to retire yet. As long as I'm fit I'll carry on," said Les, who used to compete at rally and autocross events

Mr Duder paid tribute to Les's contribution to the company over the past 40 years, during which time he has witnessed huge changes.

"Les hasn't changed much though," added Mr Duder.

"He's very loyal and very knowledgeable and he has the respect of the staff and us as a company.

"We appreciate everything Les and the team have done as key workers during lockdown. They have put themselves on the line."