An 81-year-old farmer and regular open-water swimmer drowned after probably experiencing a medical episode, an inquest heard.

John Kenneth Hughes, known to friends and family as Ken, was found dead in the River Conwy on September 9 2023 by a paddleboarder who was staying at Mr Hughes's campsite. The river adjoined his property at Cwmlanerch, Betws-y-Coed.

The inquest, at Ruthin County Hall on Tuesday, February 6, heard Ken was a "good swimmer" and was mindful of his safety and of others.

Prior to his death, the 81-year-old widow, who was born in Rhyl, was still working on the family farm although not full time.

Family attended an inquest via video link.

"He enjoyed cooking and hosting dinner parties," said Ken's daughter Rachael Evans in her statement, read out by Kate Robertson, assistant coroner for North Wales East and Central.

"Family meant everything. He loved to know what we were up to."

The inquest heard that Ken was still "very active." He was involved in the church and was a former school governor.

He often enjoyed swimming in the river, which was located at the bottom of the garden.

"He really thought he was Peter Pan," Rachael said.

A few days prior to his death, Ken had enjoyed a buffet with his children, their partners and grandchildren.

At about 1.30pm on September 8, Ken had called to see Rachael. She described him as "his usual energetic self".

It is unknown if Ken went for a swim on the Friday evening or the morning of September 9.

Rachael said: "On Saturday 9, we were made aware of someone in the river. We were devastated it was dad and that he had passed away.

"He loved the farm and all the family around him.

"He was known by everyone in the community and helped out in the local church and the community."

Daughter Jennifer said in her statement that the family think Ken went swimming on Friday evening.

"We checked the landline in his house and he did not make any of his calls that evening which was quite unusual," she said.

"His Land Rover did not move on the Friday or Saturday."

Megan Robinson found Ken whilst out on her paddleboard. Megan, her husband and father had planned to stay two nights at the campsite.

In her statement, read out at the inquest, Megan said: "I woke on the Saturday and had a relatively slow morning. We decided we wanted to go paddleboarding in the river. 

"We went to the river for about 1pm. I decided I wanted to go first and headed off into the Betws direction."

After about 10 minutes, Megan made her way back down. She noted the river was "very quiet" and "clear".

She saw an "older gentleman" in the water. She shouted to people walking by for help and paddled "as fast as she could" back to her father and husband.

Megan's father called the police.

Pathologist Dr Muhammad Aslam, who carried out a post-mortem examination, said the cause of death was drowning, contributed by ischemic and valvular heart disease.

Ms Robertson recorded a narrative conclusion, explaining that Ken was found deceased on September 9 at the River Conwy, Betws y Coed, after probably experiencing a medical episode in the water after which then led to the deceased drowning due to being unable to self rescue.

The inquest heard that 500 people attended Ken's funeral.

The family fondly recalled that residents would call Ken 'Mr park anywhere' due to his love of people and his acquaintances.

Ms Robertson said: "He was considered to be very active, right up to the point he passed away. He would swim on a daily basis with good weather.

"There is no suggestion that he would enter the water if there was any danger."

She added: "Rachael, Jennifer and Gareth, you painted for me in words the most loved and supported man, not only for you as a family, but certainty within the community as well, by the number who attended his funeral and the nickname he had. A ray of sunshine in your lives and the community as well.

"I’m sorry that you lost him in the circumstances that you did. He was clearly well loved and a great character within your family and I’m sure within the Betws-y-Coed community."

Rachael said: "I feel very blessed that he didn’t suffer. He lived life to the full, up to the very last minute.

“Whenever I’m out anywhere, locals still commiserate and have all these little antidotes and fun stories.”