A WIDOW whose body was found in a pond at the weekend was about to receive an award for her work with horses, it was revealed today.

The Durham branch of the British Horse Society planned to present 73-year-old Evelyn Graham with the accolade next week for her work as a voluntary riding and road safety examiner.

The mother-of-two went missing on Saturday after leaving her home in Manfield, near Darlington, to go for a walk. Police found her body in a pond at Aldbrough St John the next day.

Margaret Hedley, from the society, said Mrs Graham had worked tirelessly to educate adults and children about horseback safety.

"It's only in the last nine months that she has been ill and hasn't been so involved. For many years she was a doer and a motivator. It's very sad that she has died in this way."

Mrs Graham's family paid tribute to her yesterday, describing her as a "legend" in the horsing world.

Daughter Jane said the family began to worry when she failed to return to their farmhouse. "It was really very slippy. Maybe she decided to come back through the fields."

Her mother had been struck by ill health in the last year but was still planning a holiday to China.

"Id describe her as a human dynamo. She was somebody that did everything for everybody else. She was an inspiration to most people who met her."

Mrs Graham, whose farmer husband, Wilf, died in August 2000, trained as a nurse at Darlington Memorial Hospital before she was married.

She gave up nursing to have a family and help on the farm, but took it up again in her sixties, retiring last May. Aged 70, she abseiled down the Memorial Hospital to raise cash for charity. The founder of Darlington and District Riding Club, she received a national award last year from the Pony Club and was a member of the Zetland Hunt.

"There wasn't an area of equine life that she wasn't actively involved in," said Miss Graham. "Local children who she taught to ride knew her as Mrs Quicksticks. She was an absolute stalwart of the community and touched the lives of hundreds of people."

* A WARNING has been issued for people not to risk their lives by walking on frozen lakes, ponds, reservoirs and canals.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)has said that people who even walk close to the water's edge when it is snowing can put their lives in danger.

Peter Cornall, RoSPA water and leisure manager said: "With the cold spell gripping the country, we are extremely concerned that there could be tragedies in the next few days.

"Four youngsters died when they went through the ice on a frozen river in America recently, and we would hate to see a similar thing happen here.

"There was at least one death in the UK last winter where a boy went through the ice on a frozen reservoir and another where someone slipped from the bank in icy conditions and died in the water."

Mr Cornall is calling on parents to talk to their children about the dangers of playing on ice He said: "Adults should set a good example by staying off the ice themselves, and dog owners should ensure they keep their pets on a lead."