Tributes paid to Little Harrowden rambling stalwart 'Chippy Coles'

A well-loved Little Harrowden rambler and councillor, honoured for his services to his community, has died.

Monday, 11th November 2019, 3:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 2:05 pm
Celebrating his 90th birthday in Scotland

Bob Coles, a former carpenter and teacher, had chaired Little Harrowden Parish Council for 16 years and had been made life president of Northamptonshire Ramblers.

He had recently celebrated his 90th birthday with his family, and died peacefully in his home village of Little Harrowden on Friday, November 8 - in the house he had designed and built for his family.

His son Mick said: "His two loves were his wife Betty and the village. He was a very caring man about others and he always wanted to tell you a tale.

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"He was nicknamed 'Posty Bob' because he would mark the footpath from Little to Great Harrowden with posts to mark the way - I don't think he was the farmers' friend.

"He led a lot of walks for the ramblers and he was always free with chocolate and mince pies."

Bob was awarded an MBE for his community work in the 2007 New Years honours list for his 'services to the community' after his long stint as a councillor and for tireless work on rights of way and for his efforts fighting for a pocket park in Finedon.

He joined Little Harrowden Parish Council in 1983, serving as chairman in 1988, before retiring in 2004. The community stalwart had also been the village’s parish tree warden and been a part of the village hall committee. His mother Millie and his uncle Alfred had also been councillors.

Bob at home

Born in Little Harrowden in 1929, Bob lived all but five years of his life in the village, when he lived in nearby Wellingborough.

He met his wife-to-be Betty in the ladies' toilets of Wellingborough Technical School when he was learning carpentry and she was studying to be a shorthand typist.

After his apprenticeship, he did his National Service in the RAF, returning to complete a teacher training course after which he married Betty, in All Saints Church, Wellingborough, in 1954.

Bob's teaching career started at Stamford Road Boys School, Kettering, moving to Westfield Boys School in Wellingborough which became Sir Christopher Hatton School where he was affectionately known as Chippy Coles.

Bob at work

A skilled designer and carpenter, Bob bought a plot of land in Wellingborough Road, Little Harrowden and built his own house for Betty and their two sons, Stuart and Mick.

Mick said: "He built the house himself with some help from a few building friends. Our joke was that he never quite finished it - he'd always got a little bit he wanted to add.

"He was offered early retirement in 1984 and he had longer being retired than he did at work. That's when he was his busiest. He put up stiles and looked after the footpaths.

"When he got his MBE for services to the community we went down to Buckingham Palace. I never saw my mother so full of pride.

Bob and Betty at Buckingham Palace

"One of his greatest campaigns was to get the footbridge over the A14 built between Woodford and Twywell.

"To celebrate his 90th birthday we flew up to Scotland and because he was a rambler took him to Fort William and Oban to see the hills. It was the first time he'd flown since he was in the RAF and the first time he'd been able to see out of the window - the last time was in a cargo plane with no windows."

Bob Entwhistle, current vice-chair of Northants Ramblers had been at an event with Bob last week.

He said: "It came as a big surprise to hear of Bob's death. He'd attended an event to unveil a gate to his friend Maurice Tebbutt and he was on great form.

Bob was a really nice guy and wanted to help everybody. He was passionate about what he did for Little Harrowden and he was passionate about walking."

Fellow Rambler, Kate Ashbrook chair of Ramblers Great Britain, said : "For decades Bob was a determined and indefatigable campaigner for public paths and responsible freedom to roam

Bob and Betty Coles were married in 1954

throughout Northamptonshire.

"Many a time I joined him on an event to protest about a lost or blocked path, and he never stopped lobbying and campaigning.

"People like Bob are the backbone of the Ramblers and we mourn his passing."

Nathan Cope, chair of Little Harrowden parish council said: "Mr Coles, or Bob as he was known to the village and neighbouring parishes, was an asset and a tribute to Little Harrowden

Parish.

"He was a source of knowledge for villages and the Parish Council. He will be sadly missed by all. Our thoughts are with his dear friends and family."

Son Mick added: "Above all he was a family man. The feelings he had for his grandchildren and great grandchildren were very strong. They would Facetime each other almost every day."

Bob leaves sons Stuart and his wife Angela, and Mick and his wife Karen, grandchildren Amy and Thomas and great-grandchildren Ella and Zoe. Betty died in December 2018.

Bob's funeral arrangements will be announced soon by funeral directors Chambers and Brighty, Wellingborough.