Jeff Parr: 1939 - 2022 by Alan Castle
It is with great sadness that I report the death of long-standing LDWA member Jeff Parr, from terminal cancer on 7th February 2022.
I first encountered Jeff on various occasions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when we happened to be doing the same LDWA challenge walks, but it wasn’t until Beryl and I had moved further north in the mid-1990s, that we started to see each other more often. We soon became firm friends. This was partly because of our shared passions for long-distance walking and travel, but also because Jeff was such a very likeable person. He hardly had a bad word for anyone. Jeff was never “Jeff alone”, but was part of the inseparable Jeff and Enid duo. They were very happily married for well over fifty years. Jeff adored his beloved Enid. When we travelled together, it was noticeable that he would always give her a goodnight kiss before retiring each night. My wife Beryl became a great friend of Enid and our quartet of friends enjoyed many adventures together.
RHSoc Membership secretary Chris Watson notes that Jeff was an RHSoc Subscriber who joined the Hall of Fame in 2011 and attended several Annual Dinners - most recently Peebles.
Of considerable stamina, experience and determination, Jeff completed hundreds of different walking challenges over the years, both as organised events (he completed five Hundreds) and as “anytime challenges”. But his passion for long-distance walking did not end there. He greatly enjoyed hill walking and peak bagging. He completed several hill list categories over the years, including all the 2000-foot and above mountains of England & Wales, the 214 Wainwrights together with the 116 “Outlying Fells” and all the Marilyns of England and Wales, an impressive collection of hills. But he was most proud perhaps, for his completion of the 428 Deweys, one of the more difficult lists of hills to complete, bagging his final Deweys just a year or so before his death. To complete the Deweys he uniquely designed and built his own “wooden ladder” that he transported and used to climb to the very top of Great Links Tor on Dartmoor, the bête noire of the Deweys - Jeff was a stickler for always reaching the very highest point of every hill he ever climbed! He came relatively late to discovering the Scottish Hills. He was in his sixties when he started out on the Munros. But Jeff was a “Multi-Bagger”, as he described himself, revelling in climbing any good hill, whatever its category, so it is not surprising that he did not complete all the Munros (but did ascend the “In Pinn” on Skye, the downfall of many a Munro bagger intent on climbing them all) along with a fair collection of the Corbetts and Grahams.
Trail walking in Britain and abroad was also on his list of walking enthusiasms. In the 1980s and ‘90s, when as a schoolteacher, he organised and led many parties of school children on a considerable number of multi-day long-distance routes of his own devising, in later years often talking longingly of those days when he inspired so many youngsters. Apart from these, he completed many other trails with Enid and/or friends in Britain, but the most noteworthy were those he tackled abroad. For his retirement he walked the Grande Traversée des Alpes Française from Lac Léman to Nice, the alpine section of the GR5. In 2006 he backpacked with Enid the John Muir Trail in California from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. His longest trail was the 1000km Via de la Plata from Seville to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, which he walked with Enid, Beryl and I in 2009. Perhaps his most impressive hike was in Western Greenland in 2012 when the Parr/Castle quartet this time hiked from the ice cap to Sisimiut on the coast, 120 or so miles in complete wilderness.
Jeff was an active member of his local West Lancs Group almost from the time he joined the LDWA around forty years ago. He was the Group Treasurer for many years and helped on innumerable events, at walk headquarters and manning checkpoints and acting as a diligent sweeper. He led many of their Group Walks over the years, but perhaps his most significant contribution to the Group was the series of well attended mid-week kanters that he organised for a dozen or so consecutive years. Each of these events he researched thoroughly in his beloved Lancashire countryside. He was proud that every one of them was over an entirely different route, although towards the end of the series, which he extended by popular request, it became more and more difficult for him not to repeat sections that he had already featured in earlier kanters.
One of Jeff’s other passions was for international travel. Most of these were most definitely not “holidays” in the normal sense, but were adventurous travels researched and planned by Jeff, always with a walking element thrown in. These included trips of several months’ duration to the Far East, India, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and South America. These were always undertaken with Enid and on several occasions, Beryl and I were fortunate to accompany them on these travels. He generally loathed being part of a commercial tour company holiday, being guided from place to place in luxury coaches with an English-speaking guide. Jeff was far happier on a local bus bouncing along with local people, sometimes, as in Guatemala and in Laos, accompanied by chickens, even caged pigs and loud videos playing! I am not so sure whether Enid was quite so passionate about these trips, perhaps preferring a little more luxury, but she followed him loyally and also gained a great deal herself from these adventures. One destination that he couldn’t organise by himself was to Antarctica. Nevertheless, that trip remained with him as perhaps his most memorable, along with another excursion to southern Africa.
Another of his interests was the YHA of which he and Enid were life members. He acted as a voluntary inspector of hostels for many years, but was deeply upset to witness the decline in this organisation over the years to its present condition, which he considered a very pale shadow of its former self. But it was his family who always came top of the list for both Jeff and Enid. One of his joys in later life was to take his young grandchildren walking in the local park and when they grew up he watched and supported one of them who had became a good rugby player.
Jeff taught me a lot about walking. One of the things he often said to me when we were grinding up a steep hill together, was not to always keep your head down with the effort, but frequently to stop and look back; you will so often be amazed by the view behind as well as in front. I will often “look back” now and remember Jeff with so many fond memories. Our thoughts go out particularly to his wife Enid, his family and many other friends.