Urchfont gardener who hit national headlines dies, 84

This Is Wiltshire: June Turnbull in her high viz jacket June Turnbull in her high viz jacket

June Turnbull, the Urchfont gardener who made international headlines when she stood up to local bureaucracy five years ago, has died following a short illness at the age of 84.

Mrs Turnbull was a noted local garden expert. Her own garden was a picture and she held a plant sale each year as part of the Urchfont scarecrow festival which raised hundreds of pounds for local good causes.

This was achieved despite the fact that she had been left severely disabled after contracting polio while pregnant with her second child.

But her disability never stopped her achieving great things and she was always to be seen whizzing around the village on her trike.

She transformed the neglected triangle at the junction of the village high street and the B3098 road from an eyesore of broken concrete and rubbish into a beautifully planted flower bed.

But while tending it one afternoon, she caught the eye of health and safety experts from Wiltshire County Council - as it was then - who were making a tour of the village.

They asked if she had a licence to carry out work on the highway and when she said she didn’t, they barred her from working there.

They subsequently insisted that she wear a high-visibility jacket, put out “men at work” signs and have a second person standing by whenever she wanted go along and do a bit of weeding.

Mrs Turnbull refused to be cowed and, with the support of the parish council, took up cudgels against the ban.

When the Gazette & Herald brought this to public attention, it was taken up by the national press and Mrs Turnbull was interviewed on BBC TV’s The One Show.

Her friend Peter Cook drove her to London to take part in the show.

The controversy went round the world, the story of a disabled older woman taking on faceless bureaucracy irresistible to TV networks in America, Australia and beyond.

Eventually, Wiltshire County Council capitulated and Mrs Turnbull was allowed to tend her beloved triangle as long as she wore a high-visibility tabard.

Though funeral arrangements had not been finalised at the time of going to press, it is expected St Michael’s Church will be filled for the occasion.

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