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Karin Ayres tribute: a tremendous life filled with adventure and joy

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Karin Ayres lived a tremendous life filled with adventure and joy.

She was born in the Rhondda Valley in 1968 and had her early adventures in Ton Pentre, a former coal mining village.

Tragically, Karin’s father passed away in 1977; those of us who knew her knew how much this meant, but also that this absence was never from her heart. Her friends knew how her dad and his memory had shaped her life, and that this contributed to her independence, resilience, bravery, courage and free-spirit. Karin had an unshakeable bond with her family and her Welsh heritage. 

Karin had a happy childhood with many friends known as the ‘Clara Street Gang’. She was a bright, lively and inquisitive child, always on the go.

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Much-loved: Karin Ayres was a force for good, pictured with Spit the dog

Time was spent playing in the river or sliding down the local coal tip on bits of cardboard.  Mam would always be cooking something on granny’s old cast iron bakestone when Karin and her sister Kaye got home from school, usually welshcakes or pikelets. As they got older, Karin, Kaye and their friends spent hours on the beach after all piling in her car and driving over the Bwlch mountain.

A favourite would be Aberavon beach, where later Karin and Kaye would see Coldplay play at Aberavon Lido before they were famous and the Lido burnt down. There would be weekly visits to the local cinema in Pentre to see the new film out. Karin and Kaye went countless times to see Grease on a Saturday afternoon – it was a firm favourite.  

Karin’s musical adventures didn’t stop there… In the early 80s, Karin formed a band called the Toffee Dabs, which consisted of about 12 people on acoustic guitars. singing songs like Yellow Bird and Da Do Ron Ron.The first gig was at the Treorchy Hotel followed by The Pensioners Hall in Gelli and then the band broke up. Probably because they were rubbish, but what was lacking in some skill would be made up for in joy and laughter that Karin would have been part of. 

Of course, Karin’s love of music and fun continued through the 80s and, luckily, there was a thriving music scene in the Valleys. Video Disco at The Pig and Whistle on a Monday, Treorchy Rugby Club on a Saturday, but the place to be was The Library where all the local bands played. This was reminiscent of The Peli in Stroud, as was in the 90s, which is the first place Karin took Kaye to when she moved to Stroud. 

After graduating from Exmouth, Karin moved to Gloucestershire in 1991 where she moved steadily along the Bath Road from Nailsworth to Rodborough, where she lived with her partner, Alex, for over 20 years. 

Karin started teaching at Minchinhampton School in 1994. She tricked the children into learning by making them think they were just having fun! 

Every child wanted to be in Miss Ayres’ class. As well as the usual reading, writing and arithmetic, she would start the day with ‘Wake and Shake’, where she would lead the school in a high energy dance routine to disco music. Karin left Minchinhampton School in 2011 and went into tutoring and worked at the Royal Agricultural College as the Disability and Inclusive Learning Officer. She was committed to supporting good learning and successful education for all. 

It wasn’t just the children and students that Karin had an effect on. Karin was active in every aspect of community life. It wasn’t just that she knew everyone, it seemed everyone knew her.  This is not surprising. She was part of the Five Valleys Wombles, The Tree Festival, Rodborough Fete and Summer Group, was a Road Rep, tended War graves, was an NHS Patient Advocate, Facilitator to Wigwam, contributor to Flourish magazine and the Macmillan blog, a Samba Drummer, active in the ladies fitness group and had recently joined the Rodborough WI, as well as serving as a Councillor for Rodborough. ‘I don’t have time to do that’ did not seem to be part of her vocabulary. The legacy she will leave behind is considerable and her impact on these micro-communities leaves a trail in the people she knew across Stroud and Wales. 

Karin’s love of Wales, borne on childhood family holidays in West Wales, being by the sea and walking on the Commons, particularly Selsley Common, was of course a time for her to spend with her much loved dogs. As a committed animal lover, Karin and Alex fostered and adopted a range of hounds – many of whom were from Starfish, one of Karin’s favourite charities – and people are invited to donate to this charity.  She spent her time ‘bombing’ back to Wales to see Mam, Kaye and Ev and her family with Alex and the dogs. In particular, Wiseman’s Bridge in Pembrokeshire was a happy place for Karin and Alex.  Karin brought part of Wales to Stroud and us Stroudies like to think she took some o Stroud to Wales too. 

The little girl sliding down coal a coal tip on cardboard, loving her family and friends, playing in bands and being genuinely active in her sense of adventure and spirit never diminished. She was always looking for the next opportunity to have fun and be part of something, probably helping along the way. She had a laugh that has become iconic to those that knew her and we can likely hear now. 

Karin had a way of making everyone feel like they were her best friend: genuinely cared for, listened to and full of joy. You would come away from a cup of (herbal) tea, glass of wine or a pint feeling restored, and having laughed a good deal.  The only solace we can find in her passing so early is that she seemed to live so many lives, taking every opportunity to transform the world around her and leave a striking legacy across Stroud, the Severn into Wales and beyond. 

All of our communities will feel her absence, but she will be remembered with love. 

There is a celebration of Karin’s life on St David’s Day – 1st March. 

This starts with a dog walk coordinated by Starfish Charity. This is followed by a Celebration of Karin’s Life at The Prince Albert, Rodborough from 3pm. 

https://www.theprincealbertstroud.co.uk/

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