farewell to Rob Lea

Nov 29, 2015

WWOOF UK’s longstanding accountant Rob Lea is retiring this year and when we asked him to reflect on his involvement with WWOOFing he wrote: 

Since the mid 1970s Rob Lea has been the ‘independent accountant’ (for WWOOF in the UK), initially this was an unpaid role, working with the WWOOF organisers of the day including Don and Maureen Pynches, Fran Whittle and, for the last eight years, with LILI – especially with Christiane Schmidt. Over this time WWOOF UK has graduated from being a very small, informal unincorporated association, to a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and, more recently, to being a registered charity. 

Rob with Trudi Warner (left) and Christiane Schmidt

Rob’s original connection with WWOOF was not, however, financial, but as a WWOOFer. In 1973, about a year after WWOOF was founded in UK by Sue Coppard, he WWOOFed in Gloucestershire at a walled garden. Later that year he moved to New Zealand and WWOOFed on the only WWOOF farm there; Dick Robert’s hill farm overlooking the sea at Todd’s Valley near Nelson. He spent nearly three months working with sheep, vegetable gardens, scrub clearing etc., along with a fascinating mix of other WWOOFers from around the world, before getting a ‘proper job’. He met Sue Coppard who was also WWOOFing at Todd’s Valley. 

Trudi Warner's tribute to Rob's dual passionsBack in the UK, in 1976, he soon got involved with WWOOF which was still very small at this stage. At various times early on he and his wife were newsletter editor/scheduled weekend organiser and host coordinator. They were also WWOOF hosts themselves in Shropshire in the 1980s. In recent years Rob has been a Regional Host Contact, covering at different times various parts of Wales and the Marches. He is now hanging up his boots as the independent accountant but WWOOF will never be far from his heart. The allotment will no doubt continue to be a challenge! 

Sue Coppard, founder of WWOOF, has known Rob for a very long time and she wanted to say: Rob Lea is one of WWOOF’S oldest members. I first met him and his wife Sue in 1973 when I took up an invitation from photographer/sheep and fruit farmer Dick Roberts to come and WWOOF on his farm in Todd’s Valley, New Zealand When I arrived who should I find there but Rob and Sue, plus also Patrick, another British WWOOFer? Home from home! Rob and Sue stayed on in New Zealand for at least a year after I travelled on and when they returned to the UK they became regular WWOOFers, eventually moving to a property in Shropshire and becoming WWOOF hosts. As he was a chartered accountant, Rob took on the job of auditing WWOOF’s accounts, which he has done ever since, keeping a businesslike eye on our outgoings; until now when he is finally retiring. Rob’s ongoing contributions to WWOOF have been invaluable. Thank you, Rob. 

Christiane Schmidt is WWOOF UK’s current bookkeeper and has worked closely with Rob for eight years. She said: I met Rob Lea the first time in Moss Peteral when we picked up the WWOOF books eight years ago. Over the years working with Rob has not only been about the numbers, as we discovered others things we have in common, speaking German, Leicester City football club and daughters training to be doctors. Rob felt passionately about WWOOF and was willing to support it above and beyond the normal role of an accountant. For me along with the other changes at WWOOF I will miss working with Rob and our periodic chats sorting out the accounts and pleasing the VAT man. I wish you all the best Rob.

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