A devastated friend of a well-known Prestwood businessman has paid tribute to a “colourful character and experienced sailor” after he drowned in Grenada.

Richard Hildreth, a prominent local entrepreneur who owned several businesses in the Prestwood area, including Hildreths Garden Centre, tragically passed away in the Caribbean on February 11, aged 77. He leaves behind his wife and five children.

His distraught friend Tony Toller said Richard, who lived in Prestwood all his life, was a “very experienced” sailor who crossed the Atlantic many times but had reportedly never learnt to swim.

Paying tribute, Tony, who also used to live in Prestwood, said he first got to know Richard in 2005 after the businessman kindly donated a large bag of daffodil bulbs for planting in Hotley Bottom Lane.

When his neighbour commented that he was going sailing in the Caribbean with Richard on his yacht SOCA, he was invited out to join them and enjoyed a “truly memorable and extraordinary” trip that took in Cuba, Florida Keys and Miami.

What followed was a long friendship and many more happy sailing trips across the world, and although Tony moved to the Isle of Wight, he says he would visit Richard almost every time he visited the mainland.

Recalling some memories with Richard, Tony said: “In July last year he took me to the Crown in Little Missenden in his Austin 7. He also owned a vintage Rolls Royce.

“A few years ago, he owned a pony and trap and he went everywhere in that - much to the annoyance of motorists trailing behind him up the hill from Great Missenden.

“Richard loved his country and its history. Every year on April 23 he would organise a St George's Day lunch at a local pub which was always well attended.

“On 21st October 2015 he closed the garden centre for the day and laid on a three-course lunch for 80 to celebrate the 210th anniversary of Nelson's victory at Trafalgar. All food and drinks were 'on the house’ including some very fine vintage port.

“We sang our hearts out to Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and many more. Richard's party trick on such occasions was to launch a few rockets - but not in the conventional, safe way. He would hold them and launch by hand!

“We have lost a really colourful character.”

Richard’s funeral is set to be held at Holy Trinity Parish Church in Prestwood – not far from the garden centre – on Thursday, March 10, at 1pm.

Flowers are welcome, as are donations to the RNLI care of Wrights Funeral Services, 106 High Street, Great Missenden.

An inquest into the cause of Richard's death is expected to be held at Buckinghamshire Coroner's Court, with an initial hearing set for August 2.

Did you know Richard? If you'd like to share them, send your tributes and memories to stephanie.wareham@newsquest.co.uk