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article imageWriter and campaigner Rodney Legg dies at 64

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By Lynn Curwin     Jul 25, 2011 in World
Rodney Legg, British writer, historian, campaigner and former chairman of the Open Spaces Society has died of cancer at the age of 64.
Legg played a major role in winning public access to many acres of land; campaigned to save many commons, greens and paths; and wrote 125 books, mainly about the Dorset area.
He served as chairman of the Open Spaces Society for 20 years, stepping down in 2008.
“Rodney was an unusual but extremely effective campaigner. You could never predict what he would say or do, but people always listened to him," The Great Outdoors quoted Kate Ashbrook, who worked with him for 30 years as Open Spaces general secretary, as saying.
“Although he was a huge irritation to the National Trust for many years, challenging its stuffy old ways, he made a difference, persuading it to open up secret properties and to become much more welcoming. By the time he stood down from the council the old hostility had changed to a respect bordering on affection.
“He rarely wore a suit or tie, and arrived at formal meetings as though he was
fresh from a Dorset exploration, always with an impish grin. He was impossible to ignore.”
In 1967 he formed the Tyneham Action Group, which pressed the Ministry of Defence into allowing public access to the Lulworth military range and the village of Tyneham. In 1943 the residents of Tyneham were evacuated, as the area was needed for military use. The residents believed the village would be returned to them following the war, but that never happened.
Legg served on the council for the National Trust for 20 years, convincing the organisation to open Max Gate, a home Thomas Hardy designed (He had worked as an architect.) and lived in, to the public in 1994.
Legg began working as a journalist on the Basildon Standard, in Essex, in 1964.
“I started off as a reporter in Essex because I couldn’t get a job with the Echo," he told the Dorset Echo in 2009.
“I would have loved to have been a local reporter.”
He spoke to the paper about stepping down as chair of the Open Spaces Society at that time, saying: “Two decades of chairmanship is plenty long enough for any national organisation. It’s time to move on but also time to move back and spend more time with my cats but also getting out and walking – and if I find a route, which I inevitably will, I will hopefully sort it out.”
Grough reported that, while chair of the society he won public access to 640 acres of land in Dorset and Somerset, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.
Legg also founded the Dorset County Magazine, which is now called Dorset Life. In 1971 he founded the Dorset Publishing Company.
The publishing company's website states that he collaborated with John Fowles from1980-82, to transcribe and publish "John Aubrey's Monumenta Britannica, Britain's earliest major antiquarian manuscript, in two A4-sized volumes comprising 1,200 pages."
It had been lying in an Oxford library for 300 years.
He also collected and studied Celtic heads, British antiquities, militaria and exotic trees.
“He rarely wore a suit or tie, and arrived at formal meetings as though he was fresh from a Dorset exploration, always with an impish grin," Grough quoted Ashbrook as saying. "He was impossible to ignore.”
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