Joy Bretton, the saviour of a South Yorkshire woodland, dies aged 74

Joy pictured on her wedding day in 1969
Joy pictured on her wedding day in 1969
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A woman who devoted her life to volunteering and 'saved' Wombwell Woods in Barnsley, has died after a short battle with cancer.

Joy Bretton, 74, of Windmill Road, Wombwell was known to many for her work across the community, volunteering in Wombwell and beyond.

Joy pictured centre, with (L-R) Cllr John McHale, Penny Beaumont, Cllr Glyn Jones, with Lucas Edwards, four of Hyde Park at the opening of the children's play area at Belle Vue

Joy pictured centre, with (L-R) Cllr John McHale, Penny Beaumont, Cllr Glyn Jones, with Lucas Edwards, four of Hyde Park at the opening of the children's play area at Belle Vue

Originally from the East End of London, Joy stayed in the capital despite her parents moving away to North Wales when she was 17, due to her father's health.

Her first job was as a lab technician at a secondary school, before spending a few years as a clerk at the Bank of England.

And this was where her love for rifle shooting began, when she joined a shooting club on the roof of the building, before later founding Westminster Civil Service's first rifle club.

Joy then went onto to join the RAF as a police officer, taking part in two tours in Yemen, before joining the foreign office doing clerical work for the outer fringes of the MI5 and the MI6.

Joy pictured  to the right of Mike, by the peace garden at Wombwell cemetery, with '(L-R) Jessica Whiting, Ray Mangham, site manger, Mike Bretton, chairman and secretary and Karen Whiting, vice chairman.

Joy pictured to the right of Mike, by the peace garden at Wombwell cemetery, with '(L-R) Jessica Whiting, Ray Mangham, site manger, Mike Bretton, chairman and secretary and Karen Whiting, vice chairman.

It was there where she met her husband of 49 years, Mike, with whom she married in Anglesey in September 1969.

Due to the marriage, Joy was made to resign from the foreign office, turning down the chance to work in MI6.

The couple then moved to Amersham in Buckinghamshire before later moving to Mike's hometown of Wombwell.

This was where Joy gave birth to their son David, and began working at the Civic Hall. She then went on to work for the Dimensions group of hairdressers, followed by the chamber of commerce.

Her work then led her to eventually become self-employed as a book keeper, a job which her husband Mike says she was doing, on a reduced basis, until the day she died.

Joy was heavily involved in volunteering, particularly within the environment and the woods, where via her work with the Wombwell Woods Society she was responsible for the successful objection to plans which would have seen executive housing built on the land.

She also spearheaded a deal with opencasting company Banks Group, meaning they could opencast on the site by removing coal from below the surface of the land.

The deal stated that in return, the company would buy the land and give it to the people of Wombwell, and be open for the public to enjoy.

The woods are now held in trust by the Forestry Commission but have been safeguarded thanks to Joy’s agreement.

She was one of three founding members of the Friends of Wombwell Cemetery, and was awarded by the Queen for her voluntary service.

She was also involved in the Wombwell Community Partnership, was a voluntary public member of Barnsley council’s scrutiny commission for 10 years, a parent Governor at Wombwell High School, was an active member of the RSPB, Friends of Cannon Hall, and was one of a small group who rescued the local British Legion branch after a near disaster.

Joy was also awarded by the Queen for her voluntary service having been awarded by the Queen’s for her voluntary service,


However, more recently she became involved in the community once more, appearing as Mother Christmas alongside Mike as Father Christmas, where she wanted to give children the chance to meet a female festive figure at the annual High Street galas held around the holiday season.

Speaking of his wife, Mike said: "God bless you, and keep you Joy and carry on your good work up there. We will celebrate a great life, sadly missed."

The funeral service will be held at Ardsley Crematorium, on Doncaster Road, Barnsley, tomorrow June 26 at 1.30pm, and will be conducted by Rev Richard Pamplin, who was Rector of Wombwell in the 1980s.

The family are welcoming donations in lieu of flowers to the Macmillan nurses, Marie Curie and Barnsley Hospital’s Comforts Fund.