Tributes flood in for college head after fatal crash

The agricultural community is mourning an 'exceptional man' after the head of Plumpton College at Netherfield died in a tragic car accident last Friday.

Simon Bishop, 51, of Netherfield Place Farm House, Netherfield, was killed when his blue Citroen Berlingo struck a deer on the B2191 Lewes Road, Easons Green, just before 5pm last Friday.

Simon was a popular figure in Netherfield and his death has shocked the village.

His long association with Plumpton College began when he moved to Plumpton aged 12 with his parents, and his father was the college farm manager in the 1970s.

Simon worked on the college farm from the late 1970s, attended college in Essex, and in 1983 became an agricultural lecturer at the college, supporting the college's work in the east of the county and later became head of operations at Netherfield.

He started the Ivyland Farm Centre in the village in 1992 and more recently The Centre for Sustainable Food and Farming in 2003.

Simon, who also headed the college's out centres in Robertsbridge and Flimwell, was well-known for his work with disadvantaged children and disabled adults, providing training on the farm for around 150 young people and 50 disabled adults.

Des Lambert, Principal of Plumpton College, said: "Simon Bishop was an inspirational head of Plumpton College's centre at Netherfield near Battle.

"Over the years Simon has led the centre's development to be the successful operation it is today, providing for a wide range of learners in land based activities.

"His dedication to students and rural activities was second to none and he will be missed enormously by college staff and students and by the rural businesses that he helped.

"There are many students who owe the start in their careers to Simon's enthusiastic commitment to their education and training."

Simon was also a devoted family man, married to Tessa and the couple had three children, Beckie, 21, James, 20 and Holly, 14.

The family are said to be devastated by Simon's death.

Friend Graham Peters first met Simon in 2002 at Ivyland when Simon outlined ideas for local food and a farmer education project.

The WARR partnership, of which Graham is chairman, part funded the scheme and other building and education projects at Ivyland and Netherfield.

The pair were working on further ideas for development at the centres just before Simon's death.

Mr Peters said: "Simon's inspirational teaching and leadership at Ivyland and Netherfield for Plumpton College touched many lives: farmers, teenagers, the disabled, producers, neighbours and colleagues.

"Their spirits were lifted by this encounter; sometimes gruff but always with a sparkle in his eye encouraging 'go on you can do it'.

"He inspired many and changed some younger lives forever.

"His legacy will be that change - he will be very sadly missed."

Simon was a former governor at Netherfield School and headteacher Barbara Gill paid tribute to a 'fantastic role model'.

She said: "Simon was a parent of Netherfield CEP School for 15 years and during this time on the governing body as both a parent and chair.

"He was a great supporter of the whole local community and will be greatly missed.

"He had a great sense of fun and always spoke to the pupils with great warmth.

"He was an inspiration to so many people locally.

"He was tireless in supporting so many local initiatives, a fantastic role model to all.

"As a school community we were devastated to hear about Simon and out thoughts are with Tessa, Beckie, James and

Holly at this sad time."

Cllr John Boryer, of Darvel Down, said: "One of the things I gleaned from people who worked with him was he acted as a bit of an inspirational leader and had this ability to get the best out of people who otherwise may not have had the best chance in life.

"He was an exceptional man.

"He left this world in a far better place than if he had not been here."

Following requests from customers, Netherfield Post Office and Stores has set up a collection for a wreath for Simon.

Anyone who wishes to contribute should call in to the shop.

Simon's funeral will take place at St Mary's Church, Battle, on November 20 at 11am.

All who knew Simon are welcome.

Police are appealing for witnesses to last Friday's car crash.

A 50-year-old Heathfield woman, driving a red Vauxhall Astra, also struck the deer during the accident.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Sussex Police on 0845 60 70 999, quoting Operation Theydon.