A charity worker died in a freak accident as she tested an aerial slide at an outdoor pursuits centre.

Tanya Bocking, 41, is believed to have caught her neck in a tree after her harness slipped at a Girl Guide activity centre at Blackland Farm, East Grinstead.

Ms Bocking, who lived at Belle Vue Cottages in Brighton with her partner Kim, was operations director of Brighton-based Adventure Unlimited, a charity working with young and disadvantaged people.

She had been at the charity since 1999 and was a popular member of the team.

Her family spoke of their loss and Ms Bocking's love of life. In a statement, they said: "Tanya's life centred around helping others. She was a person of great stature, passionate about life and people. She was a source of strength, wisdom and inspiration for all that knew her.

"Tanya had a huge heart and a laugh to match. She lived life to the full and encouraged others to do the same.

"Tanya's safety record as an instructor and trainer was immaculate; she took enormous pride in the very high standards she set herself and others.

"Her death has left her family, friends and colleagues shocked and deeply saddened. The coroner's investigation is under way; the uncertainty around what happened is adding to the pain and grief her family are suffering and they ask for their privacy to be respected while they wait for more information.

"Tanya's partner Kim and brothers Nat and Jub, sister Susan and mother Diana are being comforted by friends at home."

Richard Hardwick, director of the Adventure Unlimited, said the team was in shock after the tragedy and family and friends were rallying round to support Ms Bocking's partner.

He said: "We are not sure exactly what happened as there were no witnesses there at the time but it seems as if something might have failed.

"She was a very experienced member of the staff and knew what she was doing. She has helped thousands of children over the years.

"This is a terrible tragedy and everyone here is very upset. She was such an important part of the whole team and it is impossible to come to terms with.

"We are all like a family here and it has left everyone devastated.

The charity, based in Edward Street, has been running for 26 years and Mr Hardwick said it would continue to work for the sake of the children it helped.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said a fire crew cut Ms Bocking down but she was found to be dead at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

Girlguiding UK, which operates the 122-acre woodland activity centre, said none of its staff was involved and it was not aware of any serious accidents before on the 45ft long slide, which runs between trees.

Mr Hardwick said Ms Bocking was very experienced, and well qualified to give instruction on the zip wire and a wide variety of other equipment. She joined Adventure Unlimited, which runs day events and camps for up to 2,000 disadvantaged youngsters each year, in 1997 when she was recovering from ME.

"She found that the work gave her a lot of confidence and she gave a lot back over the following years," said Mr Hardwick.

A post-mortem examination will be carried out over the next couple of days, and the Health and Safety Executive is to carry out an investigation.

Blackland Farm has facilities for kayaking, rock-climbing and abseiling, and is often used as a training centre for Girl Guides.