Rodney Legg’s funeral, 30 July 2011

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Surrounded by 80 of his friends, Rodney Legg was buried in a wildflower meadow on a Dorset hillside on Saturday 30 July.

A few weeks before he died on 22 July he had chosen the best spot in the lovely Higher Ground Meadow, Corscombe, on the prow of the hill overlooking the Dorset and Somerset countryside he loved.

The ceremony was held in a barn, and we sat on straw bales, while swallows zipped in and out. Most people were informally dressed: ‘Come as you are’, Di Hooley, Rod’s companion, had told those who had inquired about dress code. It seemed right; after all, that’s what Rodney did.

The ceremony was conducted by the Revd Stephen Batty of St Aldhelm’s church at Branksome, Poole. He began with a short profile of Rodney, calling him a ‘monographer, a cutter of wires, a necessary irritant and a liberator of closed pathways’ among much else.

After singing ‘I vow to thee my county’ (Rodney’s choice) we were invited to tell stories about him. Di read about his first memories from ‘Legg over Dorset’ his autobiography, to be published by Halsgrove in August. I contributed some of the many hilarious incidents of his 20 years as our chairman and on the National Trust council: Rodney’s reports were prolific and personal.

Then we followed the coffin, decorated by Di with photos and copies of press coverage from the vast archive, through the flower-spangled meadows to Rodney’s spot.

There we sang ‘Abide with me’ and looked out over his beautiful landscape while his neighbour, Geoff Pearce, tolled a sexton’s bell 64 times, for each year of this far-too-short life. (The nineteenth-century bell was made by the great bell-founding firm, John Taylor of Loughborough.) Two buzzards were mewing overhead. We ended by singing ‘Jerusalem’.

If Rodney had been with us, he would have been hidden in odd places taking photographs from unusual angles. I don’t have his skill, but I made sure the event was well recorded. It was truly memorable and a fitting tribute to our eccentric, incorrigible, unignorable, determined, campaigning former chairman.

Kate Ashbrook

Rodney’s obituary in The Guardian

Rodney’s obituary in The Daily Telegraph

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