For over 20 years,  Friends of the Leominster Canal (FoLC) has  enjoyed numerous memorable highs but has also sustained occasional lows. By far its greatest low, however, was the sudden, unexpected and untimely death of Martin Hudson, on the 2nd December 2021.

This tragic event, however, occurred in a manner he may well have chosen; namely ‘in the field’ near Eye Church, researching aspects of his beloved Leominster Canal.

In the 1990's, two factors were mainly instrumental in directing Martin towards the Leominster Canal. First, he was a life member of the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Trust and second a member of the Woolhope Naturalists Field Club; both organisations  having members with a specialist interest in the Leominster Canal. The latter, in particular, included the late Robin Andrews and Gerry Calderbank respectively.  From this introduction, however, once Martin had savoured the Leominster Canal, he almost instantly became one its strongest, dedicated and enthusiastic supporters and then very quickly a Leominster Canal expert in his own right. Also, at the same time, being an electronics design engineer by profession, Martin was amongst the forerunners to forecast the future of digital photography and he was one the earliest to migrate fully from 35mm film. This asset made Martin a natural choice to collaborate with Gerry Calderbank, who was also planning to publish the earlier Woolhope Archaeological Research Section (WARS) findings on the Leominster Canal. To achieve this aim, they jointly formed Leominster Canal Promotions (LCP) Limited, with Martin principally contributing his digital photographic expertise. Between 2000 and 2002, under LCP, the two went on to publish three, commonly called the blue, pink and yellow covered, booklets on the Leominster Canal; with the blue book quickly running into a second edition. The booklets were highly successful and  still represent the most detailed publications covering the canal's topography and its geological engineering.  In parallel with this,  in 2000 and 2001, Gerry and Martin also organised two equally successful two-day educational events on the Leominster Canal, at Berrington Hall and the Royal Oak Hotel respectively. Martin's visions, however,  for the Leominster Canal went considerably further. At that time, there was a frequent tendency for smaller canal societies to fail, but Martin still believed, having taken soundings,  that enough like-minded people existed to create a successful special interest group on the Leominster Canal. Although the Leominster Canal would clearly never be fully restored, Martin believed that much useful work was still needed, particularly in the areas of preservation, maintenance, research and education. After informal discussion, Friends of the Leominster Canal became the favoured name and was then formally adopted  at a meeting in Leominster, on Saturday 11th May 2002. Ordinary and life membership subscriptions commenced immediately, along with Martin, Bryan Heatley and the late Alan Williams agreeing to act as the interim Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary respectively. These positions and a Constitution were later endorsed at the inaugural Annual General Meeting at Brimfield Village Hall, held during the first Members Activity Weekend, over the 23rd/24th November 2002. Indeed, as FoLC moves towards to its 20 year anniversary in 2022, history proves that Martin was absolutely right  in his prediction that FoLC would succeed. Martin was looking forward to  the 2022 anniversary and would rightly have deserved to feel proud of its (and his own) success.

It is true to say, after its formation, that FoLC never looked back under Martin's capable leadership. Martin was renowned for his enthusiasm and ability for organising and leading seemingly unlimited  field and study walks on the canal, arranging events, giving lectures to numerous organisations, and undertaking preservation work and maintenance on the canal. The latter, in conjunction with others, included many canal structures of historical importance, including Easton Court and Deepcroft bridges, the portals of Putnal and Southnet tunnels and the Teme Aqueduct. By far his greatest achievement, however,   was saving Dadford's Brimfield ' multiple syphon', a unique part of the Leominster's and England's canal's heritage, following its partial collapse from severe winter floods. Not being listed, the easiest and by-far cheapest solution would have been for the landowner  to simply remove the structure to restore flow to the obstructed Brimfield Brook.  Instead, however,  Martin very quickly negotiated a collaborative reparative package to save the syphon, with the landowner, Hyde Brothers of Brimfield. Indeed, 20 years later, the repair still functions perfectly with high rainfall. Martin also initiated the only underwater survey of the foundations of the Lugg aqueduct in Kingsland, undertaken by Andrew Gray. Martin's many detailed informative handouts for walks (infamously given out from the boot of car) and his professionally produced FoLC  quarterly newsletters and  year books all remain popular collectors' items.

On the 11th April 2006, Martin's initial success of FoLC was then further enhanced, when it achieved the status and associated benefits of a registered charity; again with Martin as Chair of its Trustees.

Overtime, due to increasing pressures, Martin felt that he had no option other than to limit his time with FoLC. Although Martin remained a Trustee and continued with many activities for the FoLC, including leading many walks and giving numerous lectures, the formal responsibility for leading and chairing FoLC was transferred into the capable hands of Mike Watkins in 2011. Mike had contributed greatly to FoLC since its early days and it was also  particularly useful by Mike being chairperson of the then Tenbury Wells and District History Society.

More recently, with his electronic expertise, Martin became the  natural webmaster of his own, which enjoyed high website usage but sadly had to be replaced after his death by a new site, with Mike Watkins as the new webmaster.

During the  two years before Martin’s untimely death, despite the unfortunate restrictions for FoLC group events, COVID-19 lock downs provided the perfect opportunity for Martin,  with co-Trustee David Slater, to continue their collaborative research on the Leominster Canal. The outcome was a completed joint manuscript on Dadford's Southnet,  Pensax and Stourport canal line; agreed to be published as an Appendix in David's forthcoming  book on People of the Leominster Canal. It is sad that Martin will fail to see the research appear in print, as he was  looking forward to its findings disclosing exciting new insight, into previously unknown important aspects of the Leominster Canal.  It will, however, act as a permanent tribute to Martin’s irreplaceable contributions to FoLC and its existence.

Special thanks to FoLC trustee David Slater for writing this tribute.