ONE of the Isle of Wight Council's longest serving officers, Bob Edney, has died.

A private funeral ceremony was held yesterday (Wednesday, April 22) for Mr Edney who had been with the council for more than 39 years, in the countryside service, caring for country parks, nature reserves and green spaces.

Coming from an Island family, in Wootton, Mr Edney started working for the council in 1980 and did so until his death in March.

He had a longstanding involvement with, and commitment to, the Wight Nature Fund — a local charity that manages several small reserves around the Island.

A council statement said: "Bob will be greatly missed as a friendly, reliable and helpful face of the Isle of Wight Council by many landowners, parish councils, schools and charities.

"Although he worked across the whole Island, Bob was most strongly associated with Fort Victoria Country Park where he began working in 1982 as Fort Victoria Ranger.

"He continued to manage the country park throughout most of his career, seeing it through many challenges and developments.

"He was particularly proud of the big improvements to the park and its facilities that were carried out in 2013-14 as part of the lottery-funded West Wight Landscape Partnership.

"Many thousands of schoolchildren and students over the years enjoyed learning about the countryside and coast from Bob at Fort Victoria, and the park continues to be a popular attraction today."

Mr Edney's knowledge and understanding of the Isle of Wight's countryside also inspired other rangers who have gone on to work for the National trust and the Wildlife Trust as well as training hundreds of volunteers.

Cabinet member for environment and heritage, Cllr John Hobart, said: “Within the council, Bob was a well-liked and much-respected officer.

“He was an intensely private man, but the one aspect of his life he was always willing to share was his knowledge and understanding of the countryside.

“When somebody has done an important job so well, for so long, it is sometimes hard to understand what we have until we lose it.

“We, his friends and colleagues, along with so many others on the Island, will miss Bob: his diligence, his skill and knowledge, his quiet patience, and above all his rich and genuine love for the countryside of the Isle of Wight."