Alexander Peckham obituary

·3 min read


My brother, the environmentalist Alexander Peckham, who has died aged 59, co-founded the Centre for Environment and Business in Scotland in 1989 and then went on to establish New Zealand’s largest cider orchard and leading independent cidery.

Alex was born in Cambridge, to Catherine (nee King), a paediatric epidemiologist, and Michael Peckham, an artist and oncologist. When our family moved to Paris with my father’s work, Alex was sent to the local school, an immersion that led to a fluency in French and to a lifelong passion for French culture. Back in London, he attended the French Lycée and Westminster school. At over 6 ft 3 in, he was a star oarsman and became head of Westminster’s rowing club. He then studied geology at the University of Edinburgh, and went on to obtain an MSC in hydrogeology at the University of Birmingham.

Alex’s maternal grandfather, the scientist and environmentalist Alexander King, was an important influence on his life. In 1968, King had co-founded the environmental think-tank the Club of Rome, which commissioned the bestselling report Limits to Growth from a team of researchers at MIT. Encouraged by his grandfather, and in partnership with his wife, Anne-Caroline (nee Filer), whom he had married in 1987, Alex set up the Centre for Environment and Business in Edinburgh, an organisation that would help businesses understand and fulfil their obligations under the new Environmental Protection Act of 1990.

In 1992, this evolved into the Institute of Environmental Management, which worked closely with UK government to establish professional NVQ standards for environmental management. Some years later, the institute merged with the Institute of Environmental Assessment to create a new professional body that continues to thrive. An early advocate of sustainability, Alex authored several educational books on environmental issues, including Global Warming (1991).

In 1999, Alex and Caroline moved to Fiunary on the Morvern peninsula and built a prototype passive house on the grounds of an estate overlooking the Sound of Mull, where they homeschooled their three children.

Four years later, the family moved to New Zealand and went on to found Peckham’s Cidery and Orchard in Upper Moutere, close to Nelson at the top of the South Island, where they fused their environmental concerns and technical expertise with a passion for the outdoors.

In contrast to the ciders produced by large-scale industrial cideries, which use unripe, rejected fruit, or concentrate, Peckham’s uses pure juice from quality heritage fruit, which took months to track down through word of mouth and old maps of abandoned orchards. Production is overseen on the estate, from milling and pressing to fermenting and bottling. Their award-winning cider has done much to promote New Zealand’s reputation as a region of world-class craft ciders to rival its better-known wines.

Alex was a person of immense charisma and vision who shied away from the glare of publicity, preferring the solitude of the open sea and mountains, or working on the orchard. A keen sailor, he was about to embark on a sailing expedition when he collapsed and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour.

He is survived by Caroline and their children, Lydia, Oliver and Scarlett, and by his mother, Catherine, and two siblings, Daniel and me.

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