It's been a sad old week.
Last week our dear friend Kenneth Ashburner died just when we thought he was recovering well from an operation. It's all too soon. Kenneth at 83 was as enthusiastic to learn and full of interest as any young chap I know. A leading expert on trees, he and his wife June have developed the Stone Lane Arboretum near to Chagford, which holds the National collection of birches and alders.
A stunningly beautiful garden on a slope, it's full of interest, the more so because they hold an annual sculpture exhibition there each year during the Summer months.
Kenneth was one of those chaps who knew so much about so many things, and he was ready to impart his knowledge without any pomp or show off flair. He would tell you about a certain tree and it's history at the drop of a hat. He knew masses of stuff about technical matters that he and Rob could chat about, and was always keen to know what we were doing and what we thought about things. Never in a patronising way, always enthusiastically asking just the right question that showed he had a total grasp of many diverse subjects.
He had a passion for railways, for music, especially jazz and he delighted us by playing the piano when he visited.
In 2007 the four of us took a trip over to the Isles of Scilly. We got down to Penzance on the train, and he absolutely loved the journey down there. He knew every station on the line. In the helicopter he was as excited as a young schoolboy, and he met every single new experience with head on enthusiasm.
"Shall we take a boat trip over to Tresco Kenneth ?" -
"Yes, let's, when can we set off ?"...
"How about us trying that fish restaurant this evening Kenneth ?"
"What a good idea, shall we book a table now ?"
His funeral on Tuesday this week was supposed to be a quiet private affair, with the plan that a memorial service be held in September to celebrate his life. But the church in Drewsteignton was full of friends and neighbours sad at his sudden departure.
We all went back to Stone Lane for tea and cake afterwards and as ever at ' a good funeral' the person who would have enjoyed it the most was missing. Had he been there he would have charmed the ladies, chatted to everyone, praised my sponge cake excessively then likely as not spilt jam out of middle of it down his clean jumper that June would have made him put on, and he would have been in his element surrounded by all his pals. Smiling at everyone all the time.
There's not enough smilers in the world. And we'll miss this one more than most.
R.I.P. Kenneth Ashburner. 1st March 1927 to 20th July 2010