Tributes have been paid to a long-serving volunteer and environmental campaigner after her death.

Cranham resident Jill Luff, a volunteer at Thames Chase Forest Centre in Upminster for 15 years, died peacefully aged 72 at Queen's Hospital with her husband and sister beside her.

Despite being weak from battling illness, Jill sang half a dozen Christmas songs at Thames Chase with a jazz trio just three days before her death.

Ian Pirie, Jill's surviving husband, said: “It was tricky because she was weak - but she put on a good performance.

"And the lead of the trio sent an email saying what an incredibly sensitive performance she had given."

Ian praised her warm spirit and ability to cheer people up.

"She had a wonderful smile and people said in the cards that they sent in that she brightened up the room whenever she came in," he said.

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Jill leaves behind Ian, her sister, five children and 13 grandchildren.

Her husband said she achieved a lot in her life, notably at Thames Chase.

In her time there, Jill taught yoga, organised children's activities - including for those with special needs - and put on musical events.

During her formative years, Jill attended Oglethorpe and Gaynes schools in Upminster, the town where she returned to live with Ian in 1994.

She was also a singer with a group called the Hummingbirds, which put on more than 80 performances in Essex and beyond.

Jill performed as a soloist with jazz musicians at several venues such as Queen's Theatre Hornchurch and Brentwood Theatre.

Speaking before her funeral yesterday (January 17), Ian said many people were expected to attend.

“There will be over 80 at the funeral and most of them will go up to Thames Chase after for the celebration," Ian said.

"That's just an indication of how popular she was. It will be a celebration of a wonderfully full life in which Jill gave so much of herself to the community."

At Thames Chase, the natural environment was said to have been close to Jill's heart, an appreciation of which she was keen to share.

"Jill loved Thames Chase for the open air and the trees, and she led walks where people learned about the wonderful qualities of trees, and the beauty of nature," Ian said.

This prompted her to join Havering Friends of the Earth, a conservation group, where she campaigned for clean air, rivers and greater wildlife.

She especially believed we should be taking more care of pollinators such as bees, whose numbers are going down, Ian said.

Ian added that many in Havering would be shocked and saddened to learn about Jill's death.