I am glad that, finally, I visited Hilary Green in her lovely Wealden home last May. For now she has died (peacefully and compos mentis to the end) at the age of 96, and I should have been so sad never to have met her.
I had known of Hilary for many years before we were in touch because I knew her sister, Daphne Munday. Daph was the sister-in-law of my friend Sylvia Sayer and before that, from 1936, lady help to Syl’s twins Oliver (Oz) and Geoffrey (Geoff). Hilary was very fond of Daph and although Daph was the elder, Hilary gave her help and support. Both Daph and Hilary had a strong affinity with the Yorkshire Dales as their maternal grandmother lived in Settle and they spent many happy holidays there as children.
Hilary lived at Cross-in-Hand on the East Sussex weald, and we first made contact when, in about 2001, she kindly contributed to the Open Spaces Society in support of my work in getting the infamous ‘Hoogstraten’ path, close to her home, reopened. She joined the society and regularly gave us generous donations. I sent her a card and spoke to her every birthday (27 September) and received many letters and cards from her. She often wrote about the birds she had seen; she shared a love of nature with Daph (who had taken me badger watching near Hexworthy on Dartmoor) and knew that I enjoyed birds. She was also keenly interested in my campaigning activities.
In recent years her notes contained wistful messages: ‘from various country reports I have a vague idea of what you look like—I would have a better idea if you would look in if hereabouts’ and ‘your photograph in the latest Viewpoint [Campaign for National Parks magazine] just increases my wish to meet you’.
And so, on 3 May last year in spring sunshine I drove down to Pool Meadow to visit Hilary. We had tea together, Hilary sitting upright, bright and chatty like a little bird—certainly not showing her 95 years. Then she gave me a tour of her exquisite garden which she had created out of the wealden woodland. She was particularly pleased with her Chatham Island forget-me-not.
I felt I had known Hilary for ever. Although we only met the once I have lost a true friend.