Tributes to Les Preston
25th September 2021
It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the death of Les Preston earlier this morning (Saturday). Les was one of the stalwarts of White Cliffs Ramblers, his presence will be greatly missed. On behalf of the Group, we will pass on our deepest condolences to Les' family.
Tony Bristow - Acting Chairman
I was so sad today to learn of the death of my good friend Les Preston.
Les, who would have been 80 in February, died from Covid. I had known him for well over 20 years, serving on the committees of the White Cliffs Ramblers, Kent Ramblers and the White Cliffs Walking Festival with him.
Over the years Les got involved in every aspect of the White Cliffs Ramblers' work, from leading walks to arranging group holidays; from organising first aid kits for walk leaders to writing press releases (sometimes with a little help from me!) for the White Cliffs Walking Festival; and from helping to create the Kearsney Loop - a new family walking route in the Dover area - to helping to set up the Kent Ramblers website when he was vice-chairman of that group. He was an inspirationally hard worker, and possessed enthusiasm which was quite infectious. It was an absolute pleasure to walk and work with him.
Last year, Les was presented with a very well deserved Ramblers Volunteer Award, signed by then national chairwoman Kate Ashbrook.
Thoughts go out to Les's daughter Sarah, son Adrian and the rest of his family at this sad time.
I remember Les from his first introduction to WC all those years ago when the reaction he caused probably isn't suitable for publication. The Ladies Who Knew What's What were scandalised by his irrepressible upfront assumption that they would welcome him joining in their walking conversation and sitting beside them in the pub. Even worse, he didn't even notice the Hard Stare. Famously he upset Mancunian Chris on a holiday walk negotiating a tricky stream - the exchange went something like:
Les:"Give us your hand darlin' I'll help you over "
Chris "I'm not your darlin' and I'm perfectly capable of crossing this stream!"
They were never reconciled.
In time he mellowed and the White Cliffsers found ways of heading off his wilder suggestions, sometimes by just saying "No Les!" several times.
To me he was always helpful and courteous with lifts to meetings, generally greeting me with "Well, what do you think, Rhona?" without telling me where his train of thought was heading; it was usually about his much-loved army and its treatment by the powers-that-be. Sometimes however he became more philosophical and speculative about the possibility of a hereafter; his hope was supported by the beliefs presented by various religions of the world. Ever the optimist, ready to find a way to deal with the situation, upbeat until the very bitter end. How we shall miss him!
Thank you Tony, yes he will be very much missed. he was so full of perseverance; my main dealings with Les was over Kearsney Loop and he never gave up ,, full of admiration for him.
Oh I am so sad.
I met Les this summer in Canterbury High Street. He was in fine fettle then.
It is thanks to him that Liz and I joined the White Cliffs Ramblers.
Rest in peace, dear Les.
There are no words….. there really are no words.
Oh that's sad news.
Oh how sad Andrew. Thanks for letting me know. Will the Group consider a memorial walk for Les perhaps repeating one of his favourite ones . If I recall he was a leader on a walk from Walmer to St Margret's Bay.
Great shock , Very sad to hear that, Will miss his enthusiasm
Very sad news. Please pass on my condolences if/when appropriate. Thank you.
How terribly sad to hear that Les has passed away. We had heard that he was in hospital but are shocked to hear of his death. He will be greatly missed. Please keep us informed of the funeral arrangements.
Sandra and Peter
I was shocked to hear about Les.
He seemed so fit, when I met him during the Walking Festival, on the Dover - Deal walk, taking photos in his usual enthusiastic way.
I can't quite believe it, especially after receiving that lovely message from Sarah about Les's dogged determination to get better, via Rowena.
Please send my sincerest condolences to Sarah and the rest of Les's family.
I first met Les over ten years ago. He was so warm and welcoming when I joined the group and such a lively conversationalist. Although we were a bit different politically, we really united over Brexit as he, like me, was a strong Remainer.
Les has become such a close friend in our lives over the years. In our last conversation when he visited our house, we covered everything from the management of Covid and politics to the festival. He said that we hadn’t had a conversation like this for ages! We were planning to have lunch with him and Diana in mid September at Rock Salt, but this was sadly cancelled because of his illness.
Innovative, a leader, a most hospitable and generous host- that’s how I shall remember him, especially gatherings at his house and in his sun- lit garden which he tended with such joy and care.
Whilst ill in hospital, I texted Les regularly and in one text mentioned our boiler had packed up. This is SO Les, in spite of all he was going through, he immediately sent me links with Which for the best boilers! That is poignant.
My most striking visual memory of Les is that of him striding along in his military uniform on Remembrance Sunday. I think it was the last Remembrance Sunday Walk, before Covid. He wore a jaunty cap and looked very much the Major. So intelligent, so involved and interested in the lives of his friends and oh so willing to support them. I shall miss my dear friend Les, and miss him so deeply.
Dear Les - so many memorable walks with him at the helm - am shocked - I backmarked for him at the festival - he was as chipper as ever. May he rest xx
I am very very sorry, it's a big loss, he was always very happy to see me walking with the group and I enjoyed very much.
Very sad day, all my deepest sympathies to his family.
We remembered Les yesterday on the Group walk. It was especially fitting that the route took us along part of the Kearsney Loop - a project which he very much devised and saw through to completion to the benefit of all walkers seeking a safe route along that part of the Alkham Valley.
Les will be unforgettable for those of us lucky enough to have known him, worked with him and walked with him!
I am in awe of the huge amount of enthusiasm and dedication he has demonstrated over so many years - including for at least a couple of decades before I joined White Cliffs Ramblers.
As a relative newcomer to the group - as a Walk Leader and later a Committee member, Les always inspired and encouraged me - with a "Well done, Andrew!" quietly said - or messaged afterwards - I am sure that this is an important part of the leadership he showed to us all.
He was an example for others to aspire to, a visionary leader, a mentor and above all a real "doer" who got things done to benefit the group, Ramblers ,members and walkers in general - from leading walk; organising group holidays; devising the Navigation Training Day; recruiting new members; organising the Festival; creating the Kearsney Loop; funding the gate on the Elham Valley Way descent from Tolsford Hill: Committee work and organisation both locally and at County level to doing his utmost to motivate others too (apologies - I'm sure there are many other actions he took which I have not included here). Many of us owe much to Les's tireless commitment , enthusiasm and energy.
Les, I will miss you enormously but your accomplishments will live on - both the tangible ones such as the Kearney Loop and EVW gate but also the vision you have imparted to so many of us. We will always be grateful. Sic monumentum quaeris, circumspice. (If you seek a memorial, look about you.)
You're a good man, Les, and it's been such a pleasure to walk and work with you for more than 20 years, and to serve with you on three committees. Keep fighting, mate. We're all behind you in the lower ranks. Thanks for being such a good friend an inspirational colleague.
I sent this text to Les last night, and I thought I would share it with you all on this sad morning.
With best wishes to you all from Scotland (the most beautiful country in the world, in my totally biased opinion).
Off to the great Ramble
I will miss you so much!
Our talks over the past twenty years have enlightened me and uplifted me immensely.
Our walks both here and in far fields were great fun and I will keep those memories with me.
My thoughts and condolences to Sarah who I know loved her dad so very much
Over the last ten years you have been an important person in my life A true one-off, a real character. Thank you for enhancing my life. RIP my friend.
Dear Tony and Andrew,
Thank you for your notice. The loss of Les is extremely sad news. Please pass on my condolences to his family and let me know the funeral arrangements.
Oh gosh. Please pass on my sincere condolences especially to Diana, Margaret and those involved in planning Majorca trips and of course the committee.
This is a sad day for his family and White Cliffs Ramblers. He will be sorely missed.
I have not done many walks with White Cliffs Ramblers but those I did featured Les. He was ever welcoming and knowledgeable.
Please pass on my condolences to his family. He encouraged me to do the Coast to Coast which he said was the finest walk he'd ever done.
I did it. And yes it's marvellous but I'd say the Pennine Way is so much better!! Bless him.
Thank you for passing on this sad news.
We'll miss you, Les - your enthusiasm and your determination. You were a great friend to many in the Ramblers. You leave a gap in our lives.