Ruth Blok orchestrated campaigns against attempts to build new towns in the north Hampshire countryside. Photograph: Edmund Blok
If you look at a satellite image of north Hampshire, what strikes you is how green it is. True, there are the large settlements of Basingstoke and Andover, but around and between them are green fields, rolling downs, woodlands and sinuous river valleys. Yet it might so easily have been otherwise, but for the efforts of Ruth Blok, who has died aged 84.
As chair from 1982 to 1990 of the Hampshire branch of the countryside charity CPRE (formerly the Campaign to Protect Rural England), Ruth orchestrated a succession of impressive campaigns against attempts to build new towns in the north Hampshire countryside – notably at Micheldever station north of Winchester, and Hartley Wintney. She was a passionate defender of the pastoral beauty and peace of Hampshire’s downlands.
Those were David and Goliath campaigns, with the small, volunteer-led branch pitted against such well-resourced developers as Eagle Star and Consortium Developments. Ruth was indomitable, capable of stilling a room with a stern look, yet utterly charming when the moment was right. She was always beautifully dressed – glamorous, in fact, and formidably articulate. Her legacy lies in the development that did not deface the beauty of Hampshire.
Ruth was the daughter of Abel Lonie, a personal bodyguard to George VI and the Queen Mother, and Marie Crusher, headteacher of a secondary school. She was born in Norton, Stockton-on-Tees, where her mother was visiting family, but grew up in Fulham, south-west London, and won a scholarship to Putney high school.
She went to Brighton Training College (now part of Sussex University), where she trained as a teacher, after which she taught English at Bethnal Green school in London. In 1960 she married Jon Blok, with whom she had two children, Alex and Edmund; they lived in Northamptonshire and Wirral before settling in Hampshire. The marriage ended in divorce in 1986.
By then Ruth was launched on her second career as a campaigner and conservationist. As well as chairing Hampshire CPRE, she was the CPRE’s nominee on the National Trust council from 1985 to 1991, and fulfilled a further stint as an elected member in her own right. We got to know each other through our work in those organisations. Among other contributions, she was a member of the committee examining the future of stag hunting on Exmoor, which the Trust later banned. She was passionately committed to the National Trust’s objectives, and adept at uniting often dissonant voices.
Ruth was an inspiration to me and many others, especially young women in the movement, not only in her resolute defence of the countryside, but in her independence, clear judgment and resilience.
She is survived by Alex and Edmund, and her grandchildren, Roxy, Mozes and Cleo.