Ashley Thomas can barely find his way around his own kitchen because of his dementia, so you can imagine his panic when Laurel suddenly goes into labour at home!

There was a time when Ashley would have relished handling a home birth. But that was before he developed dementia. So it’s panic stations when Ashley finds himself home alone with Laurel when she goes into labour, John Middleton reveals to Soaplife.

Ashley and Laurel have been doing quite well recently, haven’t they?
“Yes. Things are not too bad. Ashley is fairly stable and hasn’t had a mini stroke for a while so everything is going along fairly swimmingly. They are coping and looking forward to this baby coming.”

But Laurel suggests he shouldn’t be at the birth, doesn’t she?
“She says it because she worries that it might be too stressful for Ashley, but he responds by declaring, ‘I hope you are joking!’ He wants to be there as a father and a husband.”

 And he is!
“The first time Laurel goes into labour they go to the hospital, but are told that it’s a false alarm, so they go home. Ashley runs Laurel [Charlotte Bellamy] a bath and is shouting down about what sort of bubble bath she would like, blissfully unaware of the fact that her waters have broken. He finds her in the throes of labour.”

 And?
“The contractions come quickly and Ashley really struggles to hold it together. He’s in a right state. To make matters worse, Laurel tells him she can’t hang on for the midwife. He goes to get some towels, but Laurel screams for him not to leave her, so he is there, encouraging her as the baby is born.”

 How do you feel about the fact that you’re leaving next year?
“I am having fun, but it is the end of Ashley’s life, so it has got that sting in the tail. I am looking forward to some of the things we have got planned, but it is also tinged with huge sadness. I can’t imagine what it will be like on the other side of it. I will miss the daily interactions with the cast. I am hoping my friendships with Mark [Charnock, who plays Marlon] and Charlotte won’t stop, as we have a friendship outside of the show.”

Emmerdale, ITV