A CHAMPION of the Cumbrian rural community is celebrating her 100th birthday.

Born on May 19 1922, Olive Clarke, of Kaker Mill Farm in Preston Patrick near Milnthorpe, has had a life-long commitment to rural issues across Cumbria and has been actively involved in various public and organisational roles.

On Thursday more than 100 members of the Cumbria Westmorland Federation of Women's Institutes (WI) met for a delicious afternoon tea at The Villa Levens to celebrate and honour their honorary president.

Olive has been a strong presence in the WI movement and attended her first meeting at Old Hutton WI at the age of seventeen months, sitting on her grannie`s lap. Since then she has worked tirelessly to promote the WI and opportunities for women and girls across the county.

READ MORE: A lifetime of commitment to the countryside

The Westmorland Gazette: MILESTONE: Chairman Karen Hanks with Olive Clarke MILESTONE: Chairman Karen Hanks with Olive Clarke

In 2010 the group honoured Olive by making her the federation's honorary life president.

When the federation celebrated its 90th birthday, Olive said: “My lifetime addiction to the WI has been fuelled by its ability to get things done and to make something better through resolutions and lobbying, both locally and nationally.”

Former federation chairman Ruth Rigg and current chairman Karen Hanks spoke of their gratitude to Olive for her support and guidance. Karen described Olive as being the keystone of the federation – the stone that gives a structure strength and integrity and holds everything together.

She said Olive is the voice of women and girls in the WI movement and that members benefit from 'your kind words and wisdom' and that women can 'follow your model, run vibrant WIs, strengthen their communities, learn and help others learn, are endlessly curious and want to leave this world a better place.'

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A traditional English oak tree was planted in recognition of Olive's birthday and her involvement with The Westmorland County Agricultural Society. 

The Westmorland Gazette: Olive, Christine Knipe and Matt Robinson, of Westmorland County Agricultural SocietyOlive, Christine Knipe and Matt Robinson, of Westmorland County Agricultural Society

Westmorland County Agricultural Society Chief Executive Christine Knipe has known Olive since 1974 and paid tribute to an 'exceptional lady' who has lived through 'exceptional times'.

Christine said: "She is an amazing role model. She has promoted women's rights since she was at Kendal Grammar School. 

"In the agricultural circles she has been a trailblazer. She was the first female Chairman for the Westmorland Federation of Young Farmers and President of Cumbria Young Farmers in 1980."

Among her many accolades, probably the rarest, was her direct election to the Fellowship of Royal Agricultural Society for outstanding personal achievements and continuing record of service to agriculture and rural life.