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Milford environmental champion Tony Locke remembered with community orchard

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A COMMUNITY orchard in Milford has been renamed in honour of passionate environmentalist Tony Locke, who died last year at the age of 79.

A well-known face in the village, where he dedicated his time to conservation work at Studland Common, Sturt Pond and the Pleasure Grounds, Tony was longstanding chair of Milford Conservation Volunteers.

Just days before being taken ill, Tony had been working at Studland Common where the orchard is located, and helping the parish council to design a new interpretation board at the entrance to the community space.

Milford Conservation Volunteers celebrate the renamed Tony Locke Orchard
Milford Conservation Volunteers celebrate the renamed Tony Locke Orchard

Milford parish clerk Graham Wells said: “The parish council agreed very soon after Tony passed away that renaming the orchard would be a fitting tribute.

"Tony spent a lot of time here – in the early days getting it started and continuing to maintain it. We always asked his advice on when to plant, and things like that.

“I would often wander up here and find Tony working on the fences or doing some clearances, so it is a fitting memorial to Tony’s amazing help throughout the parish – it was not just here but everywhere.”

In 2020 Tony and fellow MCV members were honoured to receive the country’s highest accolade for a voluntary group, the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – equivalent to an MBE.

Work on the orchard began in 2013, after the parish council was able to recover old garden extensions from a number of homes in Pless Road.

The site was cleared and stock-proof fencing installed before a number of community sponsored fruit trees were planted in 2014.

The wildlife attracted to the site is rich and varied, and as the fruit trees mature it is anticipated that even more birds, flowers, butterflies and invertebrates will make the space their home.

Tony Locke was chairman of Milford Conservation Volunteers
Tony Locke was chairman of Milford Conservation Volunteers

Since 2016 regular surveys have recorded 27 different species of butterfly in the orchard and neighbouring common – including the beautiful Marbled White variety as well as Gamekeepers and Holly Blue’s.

In a tribute to Tony, longstanding friend and MCV conservation officer Keith Metcalf recalled: “Tony’s daily routine was to walk around our local nature reserves, where he would so often be putting final conservation touches to sites he had personally been working upon, often alone and enjoying just being free to do exactly what he wanted in the fresh, bracing air of Milford.

“Under Tony’s direction, MCV secured parish council support for many local conservation projects including the Studland Common grazing scheme, successive Pleasure Grounds woodland management plans, the Sturt Pond bird hide, the development of Old Milford Meadow, Studland Community Orchard, the Pans wetland bird observatory and more recently the Rowan Tree Copse and Wildflower Meadow in Swallow Drive.

“Tony was a lovely man who cared about the conservation and wildlife very much. This is a place he loved so it’s a lovely way to remember him and all that he did.”

The parish council will install a new bench and plant a fruit tree later this summer as a further memorial to Tony.

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