PEOPLE IN THE PARK
A Tribute to Trevor Smith, Outstanding Friend of the Park
by Janet Munro, Park Ranger
When I first came to the park, Trevor took it upon himself to look after me while I settled in. By then, he'd already been volunteering for Richard for two years and had an established routine that suited him well. I very quickly discovered that there were jobs around the Park that he deemed to be his alone and he didn't welcome any "help" from me or anyone else for that matter. The shed at the back of the cafe was definitely his territory and I'd be greeted with a cheery "waddya want?" whenever I came in to look for anything.
His dry, mischievous sense of humour was very apparent and so was his deafness. It led to some very interesting conversations. I was so used to having to shout when speaking to Trev that I'd sometimes find myself shouting at colleagues who could hear perfectly well. There was always a twinkle in his eye and a little upward curl of the mouth when he was in the mood to "play you up".
The morning routine would start with sticking my head round the shed door to say good morning and be greeted with the words "oh yer 'ere then" and all would be right with the world. Always a plain speaker, he'd let you know if he didn't agree with you and you certainly couldn't tell him what to do. He nicknamed me "The Ayatollah" when I dared to advise him to see the doctor to get his hearing assessed. He steadfastly refused to attend any of the Friend's Socials but would be offended if he wasn't asked. He was simply being "our Trev".
If anyone deserved to be called a Friend of the Park it was Trevor. Over the years he chopped hundreds of tons of wood, raised thousands of pounds selling it for firewood, cleared tons of debris from the culvert to keep the water flowing. Then we think of all the trees he's nurtured, the fishing swims he's cleared, the benches he's painted - the mind just boggles. I can see him now with Richard, loading the Landrover with firewood ready for yet another delivery.
Nobody could cut weaving willow as well as Trev. I would tell him that I needed 300 weavers for a school party to make wreaths and a couple of days later he'd hand them to me all neatly bundled into 50's, trimmed and ready to go. He'd also set up a table with pond dipping & bug hunting equipment if we needed them.
The Park repaid him for his efforts but not with money. It was in his soul - he loved every inch of it! The still, bright summer mornings when nobody was about. The sunsets and mists of autumn or the beauty of a fresh snowfall. Watching the fish spawning in the lake or the antics of the cattle in the river meadow. The wrens roosting near his shed or the ducks coming to see if he had any crusts. The flash of a dragonfly or a beautiful flower, he especially loved daffodils. It was these simple pleasures that made him happy. He took any vandalism as a personal insult. If he could, he made sure that the perpetrators were brought to justice.
He was charitable to the core. After a local teacher died of breast cancer, he suggested we might hold a fundraising event? From that little spark arose Breast Cancer Research Day in April 2009 which raised almost £4,000! It was a nightmare to organise but it was worth all the hard work just to see Trev dolled up in a pink wig!
He also loved history. Events like A Living from the Landscape Day and the Wringvurm (Viking life re-enactment) Day gave him a lot of joy. I can see him now with his friend Jerry Clark struggling to get the marquee up.
His farming background shone through in everything he did. He'd occasionally talk about his early life in the Fens and it was clear that he was heavily influenced by those experiences. He largely shunned modern power tools preferring instead to arm himself with a splitting axe and scythe. I have an abiding memory of him marching off like the Grim Reaper, scythe over his shoulder, to cut down the weeds around the trees along the edge of the shelter belt. He did however, occasionally use a small silver petrol mower he'd been given which he called his Maserati.
I'm sure that everyone in the community who knew Trev has their own memories of him. Memories like Trevor manning the bridge, sometimes for hours in times of flood trying to stop people getting stuck in the deep water on the Carlton side; his shop keeping days or playing him at skittles in the pub.
It was abundantly clear from the number of visitors always calling by at the shed for a natter that Trevor was regarded with great respect and affection by a lot of people. The sheer number of visitors he had at the hospital when he was taken ill was testament to that. He was never alone.
As for those of us from the Friends Group, Richard & myself it's the little things that we miss the most; hearing him humming to himself as he trooped up from the shed to get his dinner from the girls in the café; making him endless cups of black coffee with 2 sugars; treating him to his favourite hot pasty or sausage roll from the little cake shop in Sharnbrook and watching him scoot off on his pushbike and trailer with his tools & lunch in to clean the culvert.
The deep & meaningful conversations about football and the Bedford Blues Rugby club over sandwiches outside his shed. He was on first name terms with two of the players who gave him loads of Bedford Blues clothing & baseball caps which he collected. His "Albert Steptoe" scowl if you did or said something out of turn or if I pinched one of his custard creams.
Watching him bag up a load of wood brought in by his friend Peter Hall and the glee as he sold them (his entrepreneurial streak never left him). Seeing him offer his arm to the elderly nun who used to come from Olney Abbey to feed grain to the ducks and singing Bedford preacher John Bunyan's "He Who Would Valiant Be" as I dropped him off at the pub on the way home from work.
Trevor - the list is endless and the Park seems a dimmer place without you. Something is missing that can never be replaced and it is fitting that the Green Flag you helped us win flies at half mast for you.Trevor Smith died in Bedford Hospital on the 10th August aged 71.
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