HE was dubbed the “Ghost Rider” during his 300-mile adventure through Hampshire and other parts of the south.

Richard St Barbe Baker, who will long be remembered in and around West End where he was born in 1889, led a remarkable life, and his decision to tackle and recreate the famous ride of William Cobbett from the 1800s was typical of the man.

It was back in June, 1958, that Mr Baker set out on his 16-year-old grey horse named “The Ghost” to follow the route of Cobbett across Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex before returning to Botley at the end of the journey.

William Cobbett, who settled in Botley in 1805, was a farmer, politician, and journalist, best remembered for his book from 1830, Rural Rides, which is still in print today.

More than a century later, 68-year-old, Mr Baker, an English forester, environmental activist and author, saddled up his horse and set off for the byways of the south.

When he completed his journey the Daily Echo was on hand to record the event as he rode into Botley.

“Fit and bronzed after a 300-oddmile horseback journey recalling William Cobbett’s ride, Mr Baker rode into Botley to finish his journey by the Cobbett Memorial,” said the Daily Echo.

“Mr Baker, founder and director of activities of the Men of the Trees, set out on June 12, just 19 days ago.

Riding ‘The Ghost’, a horse of 17- hands, he took the line of Cobbett’s ride.

“On the way he estimates that he has spoken to about 30,000 schoolchildren, telling them about the importance and beauty of trees in our countryside as did Cobbett on his ride.

“It has been a wonderful ride. I have been received with great hospitality by many people along the route.”

The intrepid traveller spent his last night of the ride at Castle Farm, Wickham, where his hostess was Mrs Sheila Ellrich, whose two sons, Malcolm and Peter, accompanied him on horseback on the final leg of the journey to Botley.

As a youngster Mr Baker became interested in gardening and botany; then later in life he travelled to Canada where he undertook missionary work in some of the most remote parts of the country.

When the First World War intervened, Mr Baker served in France with Royal Horse Artillery units and was wounded on three occasions.

When peace returned Mr Baker worked in British-ruled Kenya, where he saw the effects of decades of land mismanagement on Africa.

In 1922 he set up a tree nursery and founded an organisation with Kenya’s Kikuyu people to carry out managed reforestation in the region, utilizing native species.

In the regional dialect, the local society was called “Watu wa Miti”.

This formed the foundation stone for what was to become an international movement, the Men of the Trees, a translation of the original African name.

Speaking about his travels around the south, Mr Baker told the Daily Echo: “Every day I spoke to schoolchildren and told them about Cobbett and his ride, though they seemed to have swotted it all up themselves.”

Probably the largest single challenge that he addressed himself to was the concept of gradually reclaiming the Sahara Desert through the strategic planting of trees. This idea took shape after a 25,000-mile expedition around the desert, through 24 countries, which he undertook with a team in 1952-1953.

Mr Baker’s organisation, the Men of the Trees, eventually grew to be known as the International Tree Foundation.

Ultimately, there were chapters in more than 100 countries. By some estimates, the groups he founded or assisted have been responsible for planting at least 26 trillion trees, internationally.

Mr Baker died on June 9, 1982, in Canada. Just days before his death he planted his last tree on the grounds of the University of Saskatchewan, and he was working on his 31st book.