THE founder of a conservation group in Fordingbridge has been remembered for his “enormous enthusiasm” for the natural world and his “great kindness and sense of humour”.

Reverend Graham Long died on September 12, aged 83, after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was born in London, growing up in Enfield before the family moved to Southampton in 1946 and was educated at Peter Symonds School in Winchester.

Graham trained as a chartered surveyor in the New Forest but was inspired to take a different path. He was ordained in 1962 with his first ministry in Kent at Ash and Sandwich Congregational Churches before moving to the Channel Islands. His final ministry was in Rugby.

On his retirement in 2002 Graham and his wife Sheila settled in Fordingbridge. In 2003, Sheila was killed in a car accident which saw Graham sustain serious injuries.

Graham is said to have found solace in walking, recording and then writing the New Forest Country Diary for The Guardian. On many walks he was accompanied by Beryl Fletcher, who he later married in 2006. She died in September 2019. They were both active members of Fordingbridge United Reformed Church.

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Reverend Mike Shrubsole, minister of Fordingbridge United Reformed Church said: “Graham is a much missed member of our church. When he retired here he brought with him a wealth of experience and skills from his ministry in different churches around the country.Yet he always remembered that he was a ‘retired’ minister and was always gracious and patient with whoever was the serving minister at the time.

“During our time together I always felt that his presence and abilities to assist were always a much appreciated help and never a hindrance. It takes great skill to be able to serve a minister and a church in that way! He became the church Secretary and his paperwork was always exceptional.

“He became the lead person on building matters and steered the church through fundraising for, and installing, a beautiful and sensitive modernisation of the interior of the church. The church misses Graham not just as a much-loved person in the church, but also as an active and skilled leader whose gifts and talents are currently impossible to replace.”

As a lifelong naturalist, Graham became an expert on snails. He was the founder and chair of the Fordingbridge Conservation Volunteer Action Group from 2009 onwards, which has focused on enriching the habitats and increasing biodiversity at Bishop’s Pond.

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Jane Ward, of the conservation group now known as Friends of Bishop’s Pond, said: “His enormous enthusiasm for the natural world always shone through along with his great kindness and sense of humour.

“The pond today is a credit to Graham’s leadership and the hard work of all our volunteers.”

She added: “Graham put in a tremendous amount of work on behalf of the conservation group over the years even when he was struggling with the pain of prostate cancer. He wrote a history of the pond. He painstakingly recorded all the new finds at the pond. If he could not personally identify something, he knew an expert who could.

“Graham definitely wanted to put the world to rights. He felt strongly about inequalities in our society and the effect that climate change would have on future generations. The loss of biodiversity was a great concern of his and all his conservation work was directed to changing this. I know that all of us in the conservation group who had the pleasure of knowing Graham will want to carry on the work he started.”

Fordingbridge mayor Edward Hale added: “I knew Graham Long for nearly 10 years as a member of Fordingbridge Conservation Volunteers. He always impressed me with his knowledge of nature and wildlife, and was enthusiastic about the plants, insects, and animals we found at Bishops Pond.

"He worked hard to try to find the best solution for the pond when the water level dropped, and arranged for experts to give advice. Graham was an excellent and interesting speaker at our AGMs each year, and also events to publicise Bishops Pond. He will be greatly missed by members of the conservation group, and by many other friends in the town.”

Graham is survived by his children Andrew, Rachel, Tim and grandchildren, Kirstie, Callum, Abby and Jonathan.