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Obituary: Tony Locke – lifelong Milford nature lover and conservationist

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TONY Locke, who has died at the age of 79, will be remembered as a passionate environmentalist who led the transformation of many community spaces.

The chair of Milford Conservation Volunteers (MCV), he was well known in the village for his work at Studland Common, Sturt Pond and the Pleasure Grounds.

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

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

Born in 1942, Tony grew up in in rural Somerset with his twin brother John, enjoying an idyllic childhood of tree climbing, paddling in streams and exploring the water meadows and limestone quarries.

John said: “Climbing the hill with the ancient Iron Age fort behind our cottage gave rise to a panoramic view ranging from the flat moorland of central Somerset with its ranges of hills beyond right around to the industrial Welsh coastline on the far side of the Bristol Channel.

“Those early experiences very much shaped our love of the countryside and history.”

After passing his 11-plus exam Tony attended grammar school in Bridgwater, where his favourite subject was geography. He later studied at Birmingham University before returning to Somerset to work in the planning department of the county council. Tony spent his entire working life there where he met his wife, Eva.

Following a local government reorganisation, Tony was able to retire early on a good pension and they relocated to Milford.

There Tony could embrace his lifelong love of nature and conservation, serving as chair of MCV from 2016 and as a member and past chair of Lymington Naturalists.

In a tribute to Tony, longstanding friend and MCV conservation officer Keith Metcalf recalled: “Having lost the love of his life, the lovely Eva, Tony decided to give his latter days to local conservation and to develop further his interest in wildflowers until they became one of his passions.”

When Tony was chair of the Milford Wildlife Recording Group, he was asked to become the local flora expert and set about producing definitive wildflower records for Milford and Keyhaven, continuing the work of his predecessor, Elizabeth Young.

Keith said: “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.”

A keen bird watcher, Tony also kept an annual record of the cliff-face nest sites of sand martin nests at Barton and Hordle Cliff, and records of any sea bird corpses that washed up at Milford.

He passed these details to Hampshire Ornithological Society and also wrote and published several birding papers.

Recalling Tony’s appointment as chair of MCV in 2016, Keith said: “Tony’s time at MCV’s helm was without question his finest local conservation hour.

“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.”

In 2018, jointly with the parish council, MCV won the prestigious New Forest National Park Authority Land Management Award for its conservation management work and in 2020, again under Tony’s leadership, MCV gained the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

One of his most recent endeavours was to help to remove invasive non-native plant species including rhododendron from the Pleasure Grounds and American skunk-cabbage from the Dane Stream.

Tony was also an active member of Lymington Naturalists for around 25 years and was a past chair, vice-chair and walks leader.

Tony’s funeral will take place at Southampton Crematorium on Monday 8th November at 10.45am. Anyone wishing to donate in his memory can give to Oakhaven Hospice c/o Tapper Funeral Services, Milford.

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