Ruth Blok – A champion of rural England

20th May 2021

Ruth Blok, a former Chair of CPRE Hampshire has died peacefully on 18 February 2021 aged 84 in Worthing.

Ruth Blok was involved with CPRE Hampshire in the 1980s and 1990s and was the branch Chair from 1982 to 1990. She was also CPRE’s nominee on the National Trust council. Our sincere condolences go to her children, Alex and Edmund, and to her grandchildren.

CPRE Hampshire member and former Chairman, Edward Dawson reflects on her life in this tribute:

The death of Ruth Blok is a sad loss to those who care for the English countryside and its market towns. Ruth had been inspired early on by the work of Kathleen Kenyon in Hampshire. She gathered a dedicated team around her, who hung on her every word.

She was smart but her hair somehow always had a wild and windswept appearance. She was a tireless and indefatigable advocate for the countryside. She had a firm belief in the work of the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the National Trust. She teamed up with Cllr Dudley Keep, former Mayor of Basingstoke and later Chairman of Planning and Transportation at Hampshire County Council. Between them they greatly influenced the council’s policies on planning at a time when county councils still had a strategic planning function. She also encouraged it to purchase farms and farmland around the county as a means of protecting them from development.

She worked closely with Louise Cox of Hartley Wintney. She then became Chairman of CPRE Hampshire, a position she took seriously. She worked on Tranquillity Maps and on Structure Plan Reviews. She held the branch together at a time when there was little money and it had a small office in the eaves of Beaconsfield House on the Andover Road on the outskirts of Winchester, close to Sparsholt Agricultural College. On one occasion, she was parked in the small car park there when a car backed into her vehicle. She was light-hearted about it and reckoned it was “all in a day’s work”.

She was a great networker and asked Lord Tenby to be Branch President after Lord Selborne. She became familiar with all the different landscape types in the county and collaborated with HCC in the production of their Countryside Heritage series of booklets. She also opposed the new settlement proposed by Eagle Star at Micheldever Station, just north of Winchester. She felt strongly that the Downlands of mid Hampshire deserved better recognition for their quiet pastoral beauty and strong ‘sense of place’.

She also regarded the Foxley Wood new town as out of place and wrong for the county.

Chairman of CPRE Hampshire to 1982-1990, taking over from Cmnd Pearson. When Edward Dawson took over in December 1990, he made her Director of the Branch. This was a brand new post, but she was slow at adapting to computers that were coming in. After two years, she retired and her post was taken by Capt Ted Grant.

She took up the post of CPRE Representative on the National Trust Council from 1985 to 1991. She later stood for election and was appointed as a Member of the Bateman Committee examining the future of Stag Hunting on Exmoor. It was a controversial position, and she had to be advised about personal safety by the police and security service.

She lived near the Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere off the Newbury Road. She was divorced having married a Dutchman, and had two sons.

Edward Dawson
March 2021

(Sources checked: National Archives Kew, Hampshire Record Office Winchester, Hampshire Archives Trust Winchester, Museum of English Rural Life Reading)

Ruth Blok obituary The Guardian

Photo of Ruth Blok taken during the time she was actively involved with CPRE Hampshire Alex Blok
Children climbing in the New Forest