Tributes to hill walker

THE family of a popular north Norfolk gardener who died while pursuing his passion for hill walking have paid tribute to “a warm, kind, gentle and caring man.

THE family of a popular north Norfolk gardener who died while pursuing his passion for hill walking have paid tribute to “a warm, kind, gentle and caring man.”

Stephen Hayles died while hill walking in the upper Glen Nevis area of Scotland on January 20.

The 51-year-old, from Horseshoe Common, Briston, was found by other walkers, and though he was airlifted to hospital in Fort William he could not be revived and was pronounced dead just hours later.

This week Mr Hayles's brother Jonathan said: “We are all very upset, it was just so sudden. Stephen was a wonderful person - kind, gentle and caring.


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“We have lost a dearly loved son and eldest brother who made us so proud.

“Stephen overcame a number of setbacks in life through sheer strength, determination and resilience.

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“He was a perfectionist who could not leave a job unfinished and saw everything through to the end. He was never happier than when he was doing something to please other people.

“We have been deeply touched by the many moving tributes which have been sent to us in cards and letters not just from relatives and friends but also from many of Stephen's customers who are as stunned as we are by this tragedy.”

Mr Hayles set up his gardening business, Garden Gnomes, in 1983 and had a loyal customer base in north Norfolk.

“Customers have been telling us he was such a nice person - not just a gardener but a friend,” said Stephen.

Hill walking had been a growing passion for Mr Hayles, who had been pursuing the hobby for the last 10 years. Late last year he had bought himself a camper van and was taking a road trip to Scotland to find mountains with snow when the accident happened.

Jonathan said: “He just kept driving north. He was e-mailing back pictures and he was so happy.

“He was very strong, very fit and very determined and used to being out in the cold as a gardener. We just do not know what caused this and want to know what happened.”

Mr Hayles leaves behind his parents Eric and Maureen Hayles and brothers Andrew, Michael and Jonathan.

An inquest into his death was opened and adjourned by Greater Norfolk coroner William Armstrong on Monday.

Mr Hayles's funeral will take place at Horsham St Faith Crematorium, Norwich, on February 15, at 11am.

Rather than flowers his family have asked for donations be made to the volunteer Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, who attended Mr Hayles on the mountain, via Cromer and District Funeral Services, 32 West Street, Cromer, NR27 9DS.

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