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Gamekeeper's death ends long tradition

PUBLISHED: 15:34 04 June 2008 | UPDATED: 10:22 07 July 2010

A family tradition of gamekeeping on a North Norfolk estate has ended with the death of Johnny Anderson, aged 67.

Beaters, guns and members of the sporting and shooting community will pay tribute at a memorial service at All Saints' Church, Weasenham, near Fakenham, later this month.

A family tradition of gamekeeping on a North Norfolk estate has ended with the death of Johnny Anderson, aged 67.

Beaters, guns and members of the sporting and shooting community will pay tribute at a memorial service at All Saints' Church, Weasenham, near Fakenham, later this month.

Johnny learned his field craft and 'keeping skills from his late father, Jack, and he worked on the Coke family's Weasenham All Saints estate for more than 50 years.

He was the last of a dying breed of traditional 'keepers, who had died in harness, said his employer Toby Coke. He would not have wanted to retire because work was the mainstay of his life. He came from a 'keeping family and a brother, Ted, worked for Sir Samuel Roberts on the Cockley Cley estate, near Swaffham.

Fiercely independent, Johnny perfected his skills to control a range of vermin and especially grey squirrels, which unchecked will devastate young trees and ruin the potential value of timber, trees and plantations.

The Weasenham woods, which have won awards for mixed planting, are regarded as among the best in England. Under the careful stewardship and encouragement of the late Maj Richard Coke, who died aged 83 in 2001, regular trapping of squirrels helped to minimise the tree damage.

A son, Toby, who has been asked to deliver a memorial address, said that Johnny was also highly effective at another important element of pest control in woodland - culling ever-increasing deer number.

Johnny, who was born in 1940, cared for the estate's 250 acres of woods, and was respected by the shooting fraternity for managing the wild bird shoot. A brief experiment with the rearing of birds quickly came to naught, as he had predicted. He was not a great fan of another woodland enterprise, the estate's successful “Extreeme Adventure” high rope activity, because it brought people into the woods, which he rather regarded as his province.

“He can never be replaced. He was the last of a breed,” said Mr Coke.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, June 19 (2.30pm) at All Saints' Church, Weasenham. Donations for the Air Ambulance or church fabric fund. He leaves a widow, Kathleen.

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