Tributes paid to much-loved peer

TRIBUTES were paid yesterday to a much-loved East Anglian peer who was a visionary in terms of opening up the countryside for public access and creating rural jobs.

By David Green

TRIBUTES were paid yesterday to a much-loved East Anglian peer who was a visionary in terms of opening up the countryside for public access and creating rural jobs.

Lord Henniker, who had become increasingly frail and infirm over the past few years, has died at his home at Thornham, near Eye, after an 88-year lifetime in which he had distinguished careers in the Army, the diplomatic service and in the charity sector.

When he retired to his family's run-down Suffolk estate in the 1970s he set about encouraging rural enterprise - through the conversion of old farm buildings into workshop units for local craft workers.

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A man with a keen social awareness, he considered it a privilege to have inherited such a beautiful area of countryside and wanted to share it with the public - to the early consternation of his own gamekeepers.

He opened up a network of permissive paths that are today well used by visitors to the Thornham Estate and founded a field centre where children and adults could learn about the landscape and its wildlife.

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Lord Henniker, who loved meeting people and was full of encouragement for their ideas, believed that the younger generation held the key to the future care of the environment.

His wife, Lady Julia Henniker, said yesterday her husband had displayed enormous warmth and energy and had always been interested in people and totally involved in the community.

"He always wanted to help make people's lives more interesting and colourful. He made a difference to a great many people's lives, including my own. I have been jolly lucky - I learned so much from him about life and living," she said.

"Although he had done so many things in his life he hated the past. Only today and tomorrow were important to him. He was fresh and full of hope even in old age," she added.

Lord and Lady Henniker married 28 years ago. His first wife, Osla, died in 1974, and is commemorated by a stained glass window in Thornham Magna Church.

Sarah Openshaw, who lives at Kelvedon, near Colchester, has known the family for 37 years and has been co-ordinator of the Thornham Field Centre for the past eleven years.

She said Lord Henniker had been a man who encouraged and enabled others. "He was a huge visionary who inspired people with his ethos regarding care and love of the countryside. He felt privileged to have inherited the estate and wanted to share it with everyone else.

"He longed for children to learn about the countryside because they were its future. He was always in the forefront of access to the countryside," she said.

Charmion Pearmain, 68, who previously worked at the field centre and lives in the neighbouring village of Wickham Skeith, said: "I loved him dearly. He was a most dynamic and amazing man, very much ahead of his time. He was a larger than life character, a warm, thoughtful and sensitive person whom no-one could ever forget."

Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, he began a career with the Foreign Office but enlisted in the Army as a private in 1940, becoming a major in the Rifle Brigade.

He was among a task force that parachuted into Bosnia in 1943 to help resistance fighters.

After the war he rejoined the diplomatic service and, during a distinguished career worked in Belgrade and Buenos Aires before becoming Her Majesty's Ambassador to Denmark and then Jordan.

He later worked for leading London-based charities, becoming director of the Wates Foundation and vice-chairman of Toynbee Hall where he met his second wife.

Lord Henniker was a former member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Broadmoor and a member of the Parole Board.

During his years living at Thornham he was chairman of the Suffolk Rural Housing Association and worked for various other charities

Lord Henniker leaves three children, Mark, Charlie and Janie , from his first marriage.

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