The Open Spaces Society’s former indomitable vice-president Anne Wilks would have been 100 today (9 November). She died in 2012 aged 93.
Anne spent most of her life in Kent. She was born in Hornsea, East Yorkshire and moved to Seasalter in Kent in 1924. Shortly after that she met her future husband, Hector, playing on the beach. After she left school in Tankerton she went to evening classes in French, shorthand and typing. During the war she worked as a typist in the Canterbury telephone exchange.
Anne was extremely active in the vicinity of Whitstable. She claimed countless paths for the definitive map, and a multitude of commons and greens, including Duncan Down, and a string of village greens along the Kent coast.
The late Pat Wilson, Anne’s friend, fellow-campaigner for 60 years and also an Open Spaces Society vice-president, said of her: ‘By her belief in the power of the written word, and in the power of her individual principles backed by evidence which she meticulously checked and argued, she was a rock.
‘In the post-war era, obstructions on paths abounded, with crops and few signs. Anne and I rapidly became involved in public inquiries, magistrates’ court hearings and appeals.
‘When it came to claiming commons and greens under the Commons Registration Act 1965 before the 1970 deadline, Anne invited some of us to submit our findings through her so that she could “swear” them before a justice of the peace. She did not drive a car but sometimes when she needed to inspect potential land to claim, she boarded a double-decker bus and travelled back and forth, looking over the hedges to check the terrain.
‘To the end, Anne never grumbled or moaned. Her spirit was indomitable.’
With Hector, Anne was a founder member of the Kent Wildlife Trust in 1958 and a keen botanist. In 2009 she identified more than 100 wild plants in the garden of her Gravesend care home. She received an award in 1999 from the Lord Mayor of Canterbury for her work on public paths and for the community. A seafront path close to tennis courts off Island Wall in Whitstable was named Wilks Way in her honour.
She is still remembered with great affection in East Kent for her tireless work on paths, open spaces and public access.
Anne Wilks, 9 November 1918 – February 2012