Today Joan Long would have been 74. She was taken from us far too young, on 5 July last year. She was a lynchpin of Devon Ramblers.
Joan joined the Ramblers in 1978 just after the North Devon group had been formed. The following year she became treasurer and membership secretary. She was persuaded by the group chairman, Joyce Stanley, to join Devon Area council, and in 1995 was elected vice-chairman of the Area. In 1997 she was elected chairman of North Devon Ramblers, and in 1998 she became footpath officer for Torridge. She also was elected chairman of Devon Area, a post she held until 2002. She was later an Area vice-president.
Joan put her heart and soul into these roles for the Ramblers, always recognising the value of the national campaigns and the part which Devon Ramblers should play. She was particularly active in the battle for greater freedom to roam in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and turned out for countless campaign events, bringing a Devon team with her. She could be relied upon to fly the flag.
Joan lived her whole life in Bradiford near Barnstaple, north Devon, in the cottage where she was born as Joan Cresswell. When she left school in 1964 she worked at Woolaway’s Builders, doing office work and then accounts. One of her interests was archery, where she made long-lasting friends.
In the early 1960s she went on adventurous holidays; her brother Ron drove his car and Joan navigated their way around Europe, with parents in tow.
In 1980 Joan met her future husband Mike Long; he shared her interest in walking and became the computer guru for Devon Area and North Devon Ramblers.
In 1989 Joan became Woolaway’s first lady to achieve a 25-year service award of a gold watch. Sadly, the firm went out of business in 1992 and she took a job with E J Snell agricultural feed merchants until her retirement in 2008.
I miss Joan greatly: her eager, smiling face at events and her willingness to get stuck in were a joy. It was a shock to us all to learn in June last year that she had pancreatic and liver cancer, and suddenly she was no longer with us.
Her motto is a sound one: If there’s something you want or need to do in life, then do it NOW!
Joan certainly lived life to the full, in the most generous way, helping others to discover the joys of walking. You can read a lovely tribute to her here (click on Joan’s picture on the website).
Mike and Joan were inseparable, and after she died Mike scattered her ashes in the many places where they had been happy together (such as Vixen Tor, Dartmoor’s forbidden tor, the header to this story, photo by Lorna Burns).
Mike wrote: ‘Joan often had the last word, and usually she was right! Sadly this time I’ve got the last word and I would prefer that it had been different. Joan was determined, positive, and strong-minded in what was important to her. Family, friends, and her three main passions in life: the Ramblers, planning holidays, and having fun! Joan spent many hours planning our local, UK, and worldwide adventures and I could never imagine her ashes being confined to just one place. So I planned the adventure to many of the places in Devon that were significant to her for pleasure and for her campaigning.’
Joan will be remembered far beyond her native Devon.
Joan Long, 19 July 1948 – 5 July 2021