Boughton Church Window Gary Trouton

Audrey Helen Payne 1917 - 2010

July 2010

Reflections on the life of Audrey Helen Payne of Boughton

Reflections on her life by her son Michael Payne

All Saints Church, Boughton - 28th May 2010

Audrey was born in 1917 during the First World War, the third of four children. She is survived by her younger sister, Mary who lives in Edinburgh, but who unfortunately cannot be here today.

Audrey's father was in killed in action in France two months before she was born, so she never knew him. Her mother remarried, this time to a vicar, and she spent most of her early childhood in the Rectory at Nidd in the north Yorkshire countryside, near Harrogate. In many ways Audrey's upbringing was rather cloistered, since she had a governess and did not attend school at first. But there are also tales of escapades she had with brother Norman and sisters Barbara and Mary, and they clearly enjoyed terrorizing their governesses (like with mice in unexpected places)! Later, the family moved to a parish on the outskirts of Leeds where she was to spend her teenage years. It was here - at the age of 10 1/2 - that Audrey attended school for the first time. This was a big change for her, and not least because the school was large by the standards of the time, being 600 strong, and she found it all rather intimidating.

But she was a fun-loving person and found she thrived in groups. She was a very active Girl Guide, and remained in contact with one particular friend from the Girl Guides, Audrey Scriven, for more than 60 years. Even as a Guide, she was organising events and outings with friends. They would catch a bus to take them into the Yorkshire Dales and would explore the Moors, which she always remembered as "fantastic".

The moors made a deep impression on her. The song of the curlew always thrilled her and reminded her of the Yorkshire hills and dales where she grew up. In later life she loved to go to the hills for holidays, in Scotland, Wales and the Lake District. After she was widowed, she would take holidays 'botanising' and walking with her sister Barbara, also widowed by then - in places such as the Scillies and Austria. Those holidays meant a lot to both of them.

The family were still in Leeds during the Munich crisis in 1938 and Audrey joined the ATS, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, attached to the RAF. By the outbreak of war, when she was 22, the family had moved to Edinburgh where her step-father had a new parish. She joined the WAAFs, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. She was stationed first at Turnhouse aerodrome, outside Edinburgh, where she was secretary to the station commander. Whilst she was there, she received a commission and was also mentioned in despatches - something I only discovered in the last few days. During the rest of the war, she had a succession of postings, each one further south. First it was Dumfries, then Speke outside Liverpool, then Warwickshire and finally Yatesbury in Wiltshire where she met her future husband Robert, an RAF officer. She told the story of her drive down to her new posting in Speke in her little Austin 7. She wasn't sure where she was going, and there were no signposts - all removed in case of invasion, and certainly no Satnavs. There was thick fog, and in darkness during the blackout she was only allowed to use thin beams from her car lights. Apparently her colleagues at Dumfries radio-ed ahead to tell them to look out for a mad WAAF officer trying to find her way there. There were also stories of exciting afternoons out with fighter pilots who would take her up for a flight and loop-the-loop. Once she was flown over to Ireland to buy some tinned meat, which was rather hard to find in those days. On the way back the tins stuffed in the footwell upset the compass and they went way off course. But apart from the fun there were the long nights on the bases where it was her duty as Section Officer to check on the young women under her charge, moving around the different parts of the airfield alone with one small torch.

Life took on a new dimension when she met Robert, at Yatesbury towards the end of the war. Their relationship flourished and their courtship seems to have included searching the surrounding Wiltshire Downs for edible mushrooms and toadstools which were cooked for them in the officers' mess. The difficulty of differentiating edible from poisonous for novices with the guides then available caused much speculation as to whether they would live to see the next dawn! Audrey and Robert were married in 1946, six months after the end of war. Robert decided not to continue a career in electronics and radar development and to go into farming, which ultimately led them here to Boughton. Since neither of them were from farming families, they set about learning in earnest, working on farms, and getting up in the early morning to go milking to gain experience. Their first farm was a dairy farm at Wield in Hampshire. She made friends with a near neighbour, Jeanna Nicholson, and this was to be another longstanding friendship. However, Audrey and Robert decided they would prefer arable farming and moved to Boughton in 1952. Initially they lived at Hall Farm overlooking the pond in the village, but later moved to the house at Field Barn outside the village. One of their employees from Hampshire, Wilf Goodall, moved up with his wife Phyllis to be farm foreman. Wilf stayed with the farm until his retirement in 1983, as did Geoff Carter, who was already working on the farm under the previous owner when Robert and Audrey arrived. They regarded themselves as very fortunate to have such loyal people working for them and especially over the years of Robert's illness which led to his death in 1980.

Field Barn farm had been almost completely stripped of all its hedgerow trees when Robert and Audrey arrived, and they set about replacing these with quick growing poplars to make good some of the loss to the landscape. Audrey also set about transforming part of a very bleak field into a treasured garden, which gave her so much pleasure. When Robert died, Audrey moved to Field Barn Cottage, where she took great pleasure in creating yet another garden. Audrey's love of flowers led her to join a local flower arranging club, and she did flowers in the church for many years, and helped start the annual 'Open Gardens' event. She had a talent for flower arranging, and still very much enjoyed arranging the flowers taken to her by visitors to the end.

She learnt much about the village and the people of Boughton through chats with Frank Savage, owner of the village shop, when he delivered the groceries. Boughton was a very different village in those days with a post office, a school, a shop, two pubs and a chapel as well as this church. Audrey gradually became more involved in village life and eventually became a churchwarden in the 1960s, which she continued for more than 35 years. One of her favourite occasions was the bishop preaching from a boat on Boughton Pond. She was also Secretary of the Parochial Church Council for many years and helped organize village fetes, open gardens and church exhibitions to raise funds for the church.

Audrey chaired the Parish Meeting - the forerunner of the Parish Council - and led Boughton to its first success as Best Kept Village in Norfolk, a tradition ably carried on today by her successors. She also served as County councillor for about 10 years, where she worked with Gillian Shephard who later became the local MP. Audrey became chairman of Norfolk Social Services Committee and later, a member of the Anglian Health Authority. She was also a long-standing member of the boards of governors at Methwold and Downham secondary schools. In later years when she had given up most other roles she still kept busy in the community and became secretary of Downham Blind Club.

The last two years of her life were spent at High Haven, a care home in Downham Market, where she was cared for by a wonderfully supportive staff.

My personal reflections

Audrey loved the countryside - a love that was born in her childhood in Yorkshire. She knew the plants, birds and animals, and passed on her love of the natural world to others, not least myself. She took it on herself to protect nature, ensuring that the woodland and hedges on the farm were kept when they were lost on so many others. Right until she had her fall in 2007 which preceded her going into High Haven, she would take her daily walk down the lane and take pleasure in the nature she saw around her. And after she became less mobile, she would enjoy being driven around the area and always noticed any changes.

Audrey throughout her life was always someone who got involved in whatever it was that came her way. She helped to organize and encourage others, and as often as not finished up taking a leading role - but only when asked to do so, rather than through putting herself forward. She was getting involved and organizing the others even through to her last weeks in the care home.

Audrey couldn't however have carried out the work she did in the community without knowing that she would have the strong support and friendship of the people of Boughton. The results of her efforts ultimately depended on the involvement of others.

Audrey's approach of getting actively included the varied interests of her 4 children and she supported and encouraged us all. After Robert's death, Audrey also had 7 grandchildren, 2 step-grandchildren and 1 step-great grandchild who were dear to her. She'll be greatly missed by all the family.

Pam Wakling

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