WILDLIFE lovers will be able to appreciate the work of a former councillor at a North Bersted haven.
A new bench, pictured top left, dedicated to the late Gez Watson, has been installed at the Bersted Brooks local nature reserve.
The oak seat was formally unveiled on Sunday in a brief ceremony attended by some 30 of Gez’s friends and council colleagues.
Her husband, Trevor Watson, went along with his cocker spaniel, Rosie.
He said: “The bench is fantastic. Gez would have loved it, absolutely loved it.
“I will see it when I come up here to look at the wildlife with my binoculars. I look out for bats as well with a bat detector.
“I’m all for having the bench installed. I love the idea. Gez did so much for the nature reserve and helped to create it.
“I hope people find the bench useful and look after it. Most people who come here are local so I’m sure they will.”
The bench has been installed in one of the three fields at Bersted Brooks between the Aldingbourne Rife and Rowan Way. Its carved inscription reads: ‘In memory of councillor Gez Watson 1953-2016, sadly missed’.
Bersted Parish Council chairman Cllr Brian Knight officially unveiled the seat. It is the first the council is known to have dedicated to a former member to show the high regard in which Gez was held.
“Gez did so much work for the parish, not just for the council, but also Bersted Brooks and the Trees Estate,” said Cllr Knight.
“Nobody really knew and appreciated just how much she did. We thought it would be fitting to put in a seat in her memory.
“We could have put it in the Jubilee Fields (off Chalcraft Lane), which Gez also liked, but she loved Bersted Brooks.
“We thought this site would be a wonderful place to put the seat in her memory.
“It’s a fitting tribute and thank you all for turning out.”
Gez passed away on January 7, 2016, from an aggressive form of leukaemia. She was aged 62 and had announced her illness at a meeting of Bersted Parish Council the previous summer soon after she was diagnosed.
Her fellow councillors paid tribute to her at their next meeting and immediately made clear they wanted a memorial to mark her contribution to the area.
She was heavily involved in the creation of the local nature reserve before the 19-hectare site was formally designated in June, 2010, because of the importance of its wide variety of wildlife habitats and continued to help out in its wide areas of meadow, narrow reedbed and ditches, permanent and temporary ponds and a floodplain woodland.
As well as being a Bersted parish councillor for many years, Gez headed the Trees Estate Residents’ Association where she lived in Laurel Grove in North Bersted.
She was well-known on the estate and her commitment to the area and its residents was widely recognised.
Cllr Martin Lury said at the council meeting which followed her death: “I think she was our Joan of Arc. She was such an exceptional councillor, almost God-like in what she has done in the community of the Trees Estate. She will be sorely missed there.
“She played a leading role in the residents’ association. At times, that must have been a nightmare. She had a lot of stick when she started but she never gave up.
“She kept tabs on the police and, almost single-handedly, turned round what was a huge problem estate.”