Box PERSON of the Month
January 2019


Anona Fenwick Payne

There is something special about sitting in a caravan with a horse box across the way and stables close by. The coffee tastes cosier somehow – the interview becomes more personal.

To meet Anona, to share her caravan space, is quite enough to make me feel very humble. Here is a live wire of a woman – living on the edge and prepared to stay there if needs be. A woman of principle who is caring for a husband with Huntingdon’s disease.

There are three passions that drive Anona’s life – horses, skiing and wildlife. The horses at present are an ‘Irish gypsy’, stocky and fetlocked, Maximus Septimus Cornelius (Septimus because Anona is the seventh owner) and Beautiful Jasmine, a retired 29-year-old jumping pony belonging to her daughter Ellie. As for the skiing, the Hahnenkamm mountain in Austria – home to the most harrowing men’s race in the world – holds her favourite memory of teaching her children to ski. (Did she really say she skied down part of it backwards whilst holding on to the ski tips of the youngsters?) Her interest in wildlife keeps her news antennae fully alert – her current preoccupations include the bulldozing of the Indonesian forests and the unnecessary culling of badgers.

Having been issued with a ‘respite’ voucher two years ago, she is enjoying the new and challenging interest of wall-climbing at the Springfield Centre in Corsham – and meeting new friends. The challenges of climbing are ones she well knows and, wonderfully, she’s got the maxims to cope with them: ‘Either wimp out or endeavour to overcome.’

‘Yes I do get impatient’, she admits, ‘but I get impatient with myself.’

If you visit Anona’s yard in Ditteridge you will probably pick up on one source of her strength. She is at one with the world that surrounds her. In a corner of her field she has set up a memorial garden for her own family and animals. ‘And there,’ she points, ‘near that post over there, that’s where I want to lie one day.’

We look back on her life. Who gave her the confidence and inspiration to face it with such passion? ‘My father worked as a precision engineer for Dowty in Atworth - I learned from him that I could take things apart and work out how to repair them. My mother was an indomitable lady, who always gave and never took for herself. She was remarkable, as she had a hard time growing up with six brothers on a farm. Inevitably in those days the women took the lion’s share of the underlying work. She had energy to spare – an inspiration!’

Anona’s big sister was head girl at the Diocesan School for Girls in Larkhall but Anona’s passion was for sports. She trained as a PE teacher, starting off at Red Maids in Bristol, then at Stonar and going on to Hanham High on a short-term contract, before moving jobs to fill a temporary six-week vacancy at Trowbridge College, where she stayed for 16 years. There she encouraged and no doubt gave lifelong inspiration to students with disabilities.

‘What do you want to achieve and how do you want to do it?’ she would ask them. She puts her finger squarely on the problem. ‘Our education system tends to put people back in the same holes that failed them originally. You have to teach the person, not the subject – you need to write a syllabus for each individual.’ This has led her, on occasion, to step outside of the box. One memorable day when the bus transporting her students broke down, instead of waiting for rescue she had all of them get out to bump start it. And didn’t that boost everyone’s morale?! ‘Not that this would be allowed today,’ she concedes.

During the 1980s Anona was a member of Box Parish Council. After a job redundancy she joined the Tommy Osborne driving school in Ditteridge before starting her own driving school in Box. There she is gratefully remembered by many of her ex-pupils.

Away from the yard and Maximus Septimus Cornelius, she lives with David and Purdie, a rescue Boxer dog. She and David have been married for almost 40 years. They began their married life in Box, where they brought up their two children –Jacob and Eleanor (Ellie). Both children started their education at the Toy Box playgroup, which was housed in the cricket pavilion. They then went to Box Primary School followed by the Corsham School. Ellie married last year and is still living close by in Castle Combe. Jacob now lives in Keynsham and works in Bristol at Badminton School supporting the IT systems. He has a 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, who enjoys her weekly visits to Box, staying at Grandma’s ... and riding horses, of course!

40 years – maybe there’s a celebration in the offing!

Like many others, Anona relies on the Link organisation for help with transporting David. At the moment she is looking urgently for someone to bring him home from his day care at the Peggy Dodd Centre in Combe Down on Tuesday afternoons. So far there have been no takers. Can you help or do you know of anyone who might be able to volunteer? If so please contact Link on 07970 617617.

Nicky Krikorian