IAN MERCER, DOYEN OF THE NATIONAL PARK MOVEMENT AND SERVANT OF DEVON’S
COUNTRYSIDE, DIES AGED 83
Ian Mercer, the first Dartmoor National Park Officer, has died aged 83
after a long illness. He lived in Moretonhampstead, Devon, for 40
He had a number of firsts to his name: the first warden of Slapton Field
Centre, the first county (Devon) conservation officer in England and
Wales, the first Dartmoor National Park Officer, the first chief
executive of the newly-formed Countryside Council for Wales, and the
first secretary general of the Association of National Park
Authorities., based in Moretonhampstead.
During his time as Dartmoor National Park Officer, Ian won the trust of
Dartmoor’s farmers and common right-holders, and pioneered the Dartmoor
Commons Act 1985 which became a precedent for national legislation.
This set up a statutory commoners’ council combined with a public right
to walk and ride on Dartmoor. It was a great accolade when, in 2004,
Ian was invited to become the chairman of the Dartmoor Commoners’
Ian with his first wife Valerie established Slapton Ley Field Centre in
1959 and Ian was a founder member of the Devon Wildlife Trust.
He held numerous other offices: president of the Field Studies Council
and of the Devon Wildlife Trust, vice-president of the Campaign for
National Parks, chairman of the South West Uplands Federation to name a
few; he chaired the Devon Foot and Mouth Inquiry in 2001 and the inquiry
into the aftermath of the beaching of MSC Napoli in 2008. He wrote the
second edition of the New Naturalist _Dartmoor_ (2009), a 400-page
Ian spent the last 40 years of his life at his home in Moretonhampstead
where he lived with his second wife Pamela.
Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and
former president of the Dartmoor Preservation Association: ‘Ian was an
immense influence on a generation of nature lovers and national park
enthusiasts. Although he spent much of his life in bureaucratic
organisations, his love of the natural world shone through and he
inspired others to follow in his footsteps.
‘We all have much to learn from his many achievements.’
John Waldon, chairman of the Dartmoor Commoners’ Council says : ‘for
nearly ten years Ian chaired the Dartmoor Commoners’ Council
demonstrating his empathy for the local farming community and ensuring
fair play at all times. He will not be forgotten by the farmers on
Dartmoor; he was a hard act to follow’.
Says Phil Hutt, director of the Dartmoor Preservation Association: ‘Ian
was a life member of the DPA and a highly-skilled and immensely
knowledgeable person, who was admired and respected by all who knew him.
Adds Norman Cowling, chairman of the Dartmoor Preservation Association:
‘Ian’s qualities were legion but above all I shall remember his
generosity to friend and foe alike. He will be sadly missed.’