Commons Volunteer

This week the family and friends of Stuart Reid paid their last respects to a man who gave so much to Chislehurst and gained so much in return.

Born in Leeds in 1938, Stuart first came to Chislehurst in 1956 as an apprentice engineer. He was working for the MOD at Woolwich Arsenal and lodging at a hostel in Lubbock Road. He instantly took to the area and had fond memories of concerts at the Caves and enjoying a pint on the grassy bank outside the Rambler’s Rest.

Stuart was always very committed to the community and remained here until his death from prostate cancer last month. He was a road steward for The Chislehurst Society and one of the longest serving volunteers for Chislehurst Commons. He was actively involved with a local walking group and gave his time to Chair the Patient Group at Chislehurst Medical Practice.

“Stuart was someone that got things done; a doer, not just a talker. He was the type to help neighbours out without being asked. He loved Chislehurst and he particularly loved the Commons. He felt it was an important leisure space for residents, something very precious that needed to be looked after,” says his widow Penny, who first met Stuart in the Gordon Arms in 1984.

Stuart felt compelled to get involved with the Commons in 1996 after hearing that there was no funding to employ a Keeper. At that time, there were only five volunteers working regularly to maintain the 180 acres. Numbers have now risen to over thirty which was a source of great pride to Stuart.

His career had seen him rise through the ranks to become a senior civil servant and the engineering background meant he brought a problem solving focus to the group. “He was particularly good on ditches and drainage and was certainly not afraid to get his hands dirty,” recalls Trustee Peter Woodward.

Stuart was passionate about cutting back the undergrowth and opening up the woods to show off the Commons. He wanted locals to enjoy their walks without feeling threatened or unsafe. Trustee Colin Yardley describes him as man of the people: “one of the unsung heroes without whom neighbourhoods would be less caring, less cohesive, less colourful.”

When he was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009, there was no let up in Stuart’s volunteering as he got so much pleasure from it. It was only in 2015 that a serious back injury put an end to the hard physical graft. Nevertheless, he remained loyal to the Commons and always turned out at events to do his bit. Over the years he had forged a close friendship with Keepers Jonathan and Peter and with his fellow volunteers, many of whom visited him at home in his final days.

“We all have other interests, but the Commons is our common interest and we work as a team which brings a real sense of comradeship. Stuart set the bar high in terms of commitment to the cause. We will miss him greatly,” says Peter Woodward.

Penny is incredibly proud of her husband’s achievements and would like him to be remembered for his vigorous work on the Commons and for all that he did for others.

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