Kent Ramblers

Michael Stokes

Michael Stokes died on 10 March 2011 in Biddenden, aged 84.  He joined the Ashford Ramblers, probably, in 1982 or 1983, and was a member of our Committee from at least 1983 (Chairman in 1986–87 and probably for some years later) to February 2003; he was also Kent Area Chairman from 1994 to 1998 and Chairman of their European Group from 1998 to 2001.  He played an important part in securing public access to the path along the Royal Military Canal.  It was his idea to produce the book 21 Walks Around Ashford, which came out in 1991, and he wrote some of the descriptions.  He also wrote 5 Walks Around Biddenden.  For some years, starting in 1985, he was involved in regular exchanges with Bad Münstereifel in Germany and Fougères in France, two towns twinned with Ashford.  He was the last but one survivor of the group of six who in the 1980s went out every Tuesday as a party working on footpaths in the Ashford area (others included Arthur Jackson, Doug Lycett and Ivan Light). Michael was born in Hampshire in July 1926.  His father was at that time an education officer in the RAF, and the family went to India in 1931 and returned in 1935.  The outbreak of war found him at Rossall School, temporarily on the seacoast in Cumberland.  His wartime experiences are described in an interview which was recorded and typed out, to be found in Ashford Library (he was in the RAF himself from 1944 to 1946 or 1947).  After the war (1947–51) he read German, Russian and Serbo-Croat at Oxford, where he met his wife Prue.   They married in 1951.  He then joined the Foreign Office and spent his working life as a diplomat.  His postings included Germany (twice), Denmark, the United States, Singapore and India.  In about 1977 he joined BACSA, the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia, and was Chairman for about seven years.

He is survived by his wife Prue, three children and five grandchildren.


Michael Stokes

We reproduce here a couple of articles from the Autumn 1997 issue of Kent Area News that describe exchanges with French walkers organised by Michael.

The Canterbury Trails - or Trials!
(apologies to G. Chaucer, Esq!)

On May the 1st - which you may remember was the day of the General Election - several stalwarts of the RA were to be seen at Dover awaiting the arrival of the 9am Seafrance Ferry from Calais.  Abroad were 850 French ramblers and their 16 coaches .  Once ashore, walk-leaders and their assistants were appointed to each coach and they were guided to various destinations in East Kent.  Then, from Whitstable, Grove Ferry, Chilham, Denton, Wickham, Petham, Yorkletts, Chartham, Shepherdswell, Dunkirk, Bridge - and other places beyond - each group was guided to the Kingsmead Cricket ground where, during the afternoon, a ceremony was held celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the FFRP (Federation Francaise de la Randonnee Pedestre) and to 'twin' the FFRP of Nord Pas de Calais with RA Kent Area.  This was the largest event involving walkers from abroad ever organised by the RA.

The whole day proved to be a considerable success, and particular thanks are due to Mike Sharp for his meticulous planning, and to our chairman Michael Stokes, without whose enthusiasm for the project the idea would have been a considerable 'flop'!  Our French counterparts greatly enjoyed their springtime glimpse of this corner of England; they even seemed to enjoy the disorganised ceremony at the cricket ground - those who hadn't sneaked off to Marks & Sparks!

Such complaints as were heard were gastonomic, in that insufficient time, they felt, had been allowed for their pique-niques!

A major disappointment for our chairman was the fact that the "flambeaux", which he had been asked to present to the French groups, and which they would follow behind as they walked to Paris in the summer, were not actually "flaming tourches" but small wooden shields on poles!

It is hoped that our walk-leaders enjoyed the day as much as our visitors. We were most grateful for the way in which willing volunteers responded to the call for help in what must have sounded like a really hare-brained project.


"Guines Was Good for Us" or "The Kentente Cordiale"

Readers will remember the invitation in the Spring edition of KAN to join a walk in France in the Autumn.  This resulted in 69 members assembling at Ashford Station at 6.45am on 18th October.  The time difference in France demanded such an early start.  We travelled by ferry, mainly because of price, so did not arrive until 10.45am French time; but we took advantage of the more leisurely journey to eat a second breakfast aboard ship.  Waiting for us at Calais was Edmond Tellier and three of his colleagues - Miriam, Maria-Therese and Ingrid representing "Jeunes en Nature".  This organisation, part of the FFRP in the Pas de Calais, with which Kent Area is 'twinned', exists "to protect and defend nature".

They guided our coaches to the Forest of Guines an extensive woodland south of Calais, which was looking its best in the autumn sunshine.  In his inimitable English Edmond remarked "Just remember - Guines is good for you!"  We then split into two groups; one looking at flora and fauna led by Edmond, whilst the other was led by Marie-Therese and Ingrid on a longer walk to a ridge above the forest from which we enjoyed a superb view of the coastline from Calais to Dunkirk. After a brief snack we returned to our coaches and reached the Centre Europeen de Sejours where after a misunderstanding about timing, we enjoyed an excellent meal.  We were now running late and our drivers had to concoct some taradiddle about punctures to enable us to catch our ferry at the last moment.  We enjoyed a last look at the French coastline in the evening sunshine.  We hope to run two or three similar trips next year: Edmond invited us to take part in a festival he is running on 29th March - who'd like to come?

And here is an article by Michael from the Summer 1999 issue of Kent Area News...

Eurolink (French Connection)

Twenty six of us, from seven of our eleven Groups, have just returned from the first Kent Area weekend in France.  We have had the most enjoyable couple of days; we were comfortably accommodated, we ate well and we were comfortably transported to and from two delightful and widely contrasting walks.

At the recommendation of the Federation Francaise de Randonnee Pedestre (FFRP), we stayed at the "Village Vacances" at Ambleteuse, on the coast eight miles north of Boulogne.  This is a great find, offering a range of comfortable accommodation, from single rooms to 5-bed family 'cottages', all with private facilities.  The food is good and plentiful and wine comes with the meal.  Generous picnic lunches are provided; there is a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, a sauna, a tennis court and a pleasant bar and lounge.  All this costs about £30 a day.

The pleasant, English-speaking manager hired us a 35-seater coach which met us off the ferry at Calais on Friday afternoon.  The next morning it took us 40 miles inland to walk through the fascinating marshlands of Audomarois - a network of canals running through lush farmland, famous for its bird life. After a pub-stop, a ferry and a picnic we were given a tour of the pleasant, historic town of St. Omer, returning to dinner and a disco.

On Sunday we walked about 8 miles, up to Cap Blanc Nez and then downhill along the cliffs, with wonderful wide views, to Sangatte, near the Chunnel terminus.  After a pleasant pub-stop, the coach took us to the ferry terminal; we were back at Dover at 5pm.

We had an excellent FFRP guide, Albert; he is a great expert on the area and a delightful person to walk with.  We were welcomed by the president of the FFRP's Calais region and on Sunday we walked with Paul Jarry, President of the Pas de Calais/Nord Area, with which we have been twinned since June 1997.

Most of us only glimpse the Pas-de-Calais area from the motorway and we tend to dismiss it as flat and dull.  In fact it is ideal walking country, beautiful, varied and easily reached.

At the Kent Area AGM you were kind enough to elect me Chairman of our European Group, I am keen to do all I can to promote our links with the FFRP and with other national organisations and to promote walking with them.  Each Group in Kent is now represented on a team which is working on this.  Several are already in touch with the French or Belgian walkers. If you are interested in taking part, please contact either your Group representative, or me, Michael Stokes...

Michael Stokes and his wife Prue from the March 1995 issue of Kent Area News

Also from the March 1995 issue of Kent Area News, Michael Stokes and Pat Wilson cut a cake to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Ramblers

home | getting started | support us | contact us | path problems