Grasmere Parish Magazine  February – March 2021

Laurence Harwood 1933 – 2020

Tributes have been pouring in after the death of Laurence Harwood who was for many years Regional Director of the National Trust in the North West. His love for the Lake District, its traditions, farming methods, nature conservation and way of life made him feel at home as soon as he was transferred here from running the National Trust in the North East.

He first came to the Lakes as a young man when studying to be a land agent at Cirencester Agricultural College, to help out on the Somervell’s farm in Kendal. It was then his love for climbing the Lake District fells, and in winter walking up with “skins” on the bottom of his skis in order to ski downhill, became a part of his life.

As regional director of the N.T. he loved nothing more than being out of the office and meeting the farmers and landowners and their families. He knew everyone’s name and always remembered their concerns and helped in any way he could.

In his concern for the Lake District he was Chairman of the Cumbria Landowner’s Association where he was influential in helping with Conservation. He was also a long time director of the Wordsworth Trust where he advised on buildings and was for many years a Director of Grasmere Sports, best known for umpiring the Tug of War, waving his red handkerchief and throwing his hat in the air at the finish.

In Grasmere he was a member of the Village Society and helped set up the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden behind the church, which contains a stone path in memory of those who lived in or loved visiting the village.

He was Chairman for many years of the Lakeland Housing Trust formed in 1937 to provide houses for locals at affordable rents. In Grasmere he had experienced the growing number of homes which had previously been lived in full time turning into holiday homes, and the effect this had on house prices, which meant that young people working in the area could no longer afford to live here. With his wide circle of acquaintances he helped publicise this need which resulted in houses and land being bequeathed to the Trust. There are now 42 properties as a result of the work of past and present members of the LHT.

At his retirement from the National Trust he was asked to travel the country identifying coast and countryside locations under threat so that the NT would have an idea about what they might earmark to save for future conservation.

The centenary of the NT brought about another travel adventure – Laurence was asked to lead “Around the Trust in 80 Days”. This began in London by sailing under Tower Bridge in a fully rigged ship, arriving in each region to be taken by yet another form of transport to meet NT members. The transport varied from being dropped into the North Sea by helicopter, hot-air ballooning, ride-on lawn mower racing and many more, ending up walking on stilts into Green Park where a tree was planted to commemorate the centenary.

In 1996 Laurence was awarded the O.B.E. for his work in conservation.

Now Laurence’s friends and colleagues from around the country and abroad are voicing their sadness at the loss of a man who they describe as “A true gentleman, interesting and interested, kind, warm hearted, knowledgeable and at the same time humble” and much more.

His family, wife Melissa, children Matthew and Alice and grandchildren Daniel, Luke, Theodora and Elliot will miss him greatly, as he has been a pillar of strength and happiness in their lives.  Melissa Harwood