The history of the ranger service
The Depression in the 1930s created mass unemployment and for many people the only release was to get out into the countryside for cheap and healthy exercise. The northern moors were strictly preserved for grouse shooting and this lead to demands for access and protest meetings in the Winnats Pass at Castleton and elsewhere. These protests lead to a mass trespass from Hayfield on to Kinder in 1932 and the subsequent imprisonment of some of the ramblers.
The Second World War intervened before legislation could be enacted but in 1949 the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed by Parliament. The establishment of the Peak District National Park in 1951 brought the start of protracted negotiations which led to the first access agreements in the country for the public to walk on private moorland. The first agreement covering 5624 acres of land owned by the Duke of Devonshire on Southern Kinder was signed in 1953 with some additional areas belonging to the Youth Hostels Association and local Edale farmers in the same year.
The interests of landowners were protected by compensation and the provision of bye-laws for good behaviour. The 1949 Act made provision for the appointment of wardens to:
a) secure compliance with bye-laws.
b) advise and assist the public in relation to bye-laws.
c) perform such other duties in relation to the land as the authority may determine.
By 1958 the need for more formal training was clear and a cadet warden training course was started at Edale School. Cadets were instructed on "the right manner to approach visitors and methods of teaching people to appreciate the countryside; the art of hill walking, including the use of map and compass; the correct way a warden should use his powers and authority; and the fundamental principles of first aid and mountain rescue". Six patrols with experienced wardens were followed by an examination and the issue of a certificate.
The increase in access areas together with the uncertainty of coverage each weekend forced the Board to appoint 3 part-time paid assistants to the Head Warden - this was not without some opposition from those who believed that the volunteer ethic should prevail.
In 1960 a second full-time warden, George Garlick, was appointed and he moved into the recently acquired Fieldhead House. Briefings moved to Fieldhead and an information centre was built to replace the facility at the Nags Head Inn by its owner and campaigner for access, Fred Heardman.
1961 witnessed the signing of further access agreements for Langsett Moor. Windgather Rocks at Kettleshulme, near Whaley Bridge, were purchased to resolve a climbing problem. Stanage Edge access agreement was concluded in 1962.
The loss of 3 lives in the Four Inns Walk tragedy in March 1964 resulted in the formation of the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation and the formation of the Edale Mountain Rescue Team by members of the warden service with full-timer George Garlick as the team leader.
After prolonged negotiations with the Manchester Corporation Water Works (now North West Water) access land was increased by 31 sq. miles in the Longdendale Valley covering north Bleaklow and Black Hill areas. Part-timer Ken Drabble from New Mills became the third full-time warden and took up residence at Crowden in Longdendale. To improve accommodation on the Pennine Way a hostel, with adjoining briefing centre, was established at Crowden.
By 1966 the warden service has grown substantially and former RAF Mountain Rescue team leader Johnnie Lees was appointed as Warden Service Officer to take over administrative duties and to improve training.
The autumn/winter of 1967/68 was notable for the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease which affected parts of the Peak District. This presented a new challenge for the warden service as they helped to stop the spread of the disease by manning road blocks and preventing walkers from going onto the moors. Tom Tomlinson moved to a new role as Schools Liaison Officer while George Garlick became Head Warden. Two further appointments were made to the full-time team to cover Bleaklow and the eastern side of the Park and the part-time paid staff now numbered 120. The decision was also taken to appoint four seasonal wardens to assist full-time staff during the busy months of July, August and September. Radio sets were used for the first time in 1967 by wardens. The warden service during this period also operated a ski run and tow at Edale.
Away from the northern access moors, significant developments occurred during 1969/70 which involved the warden service. Tideswell Dale (a former basalt quarry) was acquired for restoration and development as a picnic area; the former Ashbourne to Buxton railway line was purchased for development as the Tissington Trail and the traffic management experiment began in the Goyt Valley. Each of these areas required wardens to acquire new skills. The full-time warden appointed for the Tissington Trail was issued with a horse as well as a Land Rover!
The North Lees estate was purchased in 1970 and this included the climbing edge of Stanage. By 1973 there were 6 full-time wardens and 160 paid staff.
Local government reorganisation in 1974 brought significant changes. The warden service was renamed the ranger service to reflect its increasing park-wide role and the wider range of duties. The posts of Warden Service Officer, Head, Deputy Head Warden and Schools Liaison Officer disappeared and a retired Col. Eric Bardell was appointed as Chief Ranger and posts of Training Officer, Volunteers Organiser and District Ranger added to the service. The National Park was divided into 4 ranger service districts for administration and uniforms were introduced to the full-time service. Areas like the Roaches and Macclesfield Forest started to receive coverage from the ranger service. A plan in 1977 to segregate quarry and tourist traffic in the White Peak while improving visitor facilities ("Routes for People") involved the employment of staff to improve the footpath system and this led to ranger service involvement in footpath maintenance throughout the Park.
By the 25th anniversary of the service in 1979 there were 13 full-time rangers, 7 seasonals, 65 part-time and 40 volunteers operating throughout the Park on any Sunday during the summer period. Two ranger training courses each of 5 weekends were being run every year, one weekend being residential at the National Park's Losehill Hall Study Centre at Castleton.
The 395 ha Roaches Estate was purchased in 1980 and by 1982 a Management Plan was produced that included the role of the ranger service in recreation management. A further redundant railway line became the Monsal Trail in 1981 and ranger patrols were extended to cover it by the opening of a briefing centre in the former Millers Dale station. Brunts Barn was opened as a briefing centre and conservation volunteers centre and named in memory of Harry Brunt, a former Deputy National Park Officer responsible, among other duties, for the introduction of access agreements.
1984 brought the largest holding of land to date into the ownership of the Park when the 2509 ha Eastern Moors Estate was purchased from Severn Trent Water Board in order to provide access and also safeguard ecological and archaeological sites - estates wardens were employed to carry out estate maintenance while rangers dealt with visitor related issues. In 1985 it was possible to further increase the number of full-time rangers by the introducing of four contract rangers, 50% funded by water companies. Trentabank briefing centre in Macclesfield Forest was purpose built under a similar arrangement. Joint initiatives brought the concept of 'area management' to the fore and in some areas full-time rangers became part of area management teams. In the same year Col. Eric Bardell retired and Ken Drabble became the new Chief Ranger.
There were by now 16 full-time rangers and approaching 400 part-time and volunteer rangers in the service. The ranger service launched a programme of guided walks under the title 'Walk with a Ranger'.
The increasing emphasis on resource management, particularly the improvement of the footpath system, necessitated the appointment of a Footpath Officer in the service and shortly after a Pennine Way Project Officer funded by the Countryside Commission operated within the ranger service. The last of the major land purchases took place in 1986 with the acquisition of the 4900 acre Warslow Moors Estate. Similar management arrangements as on the Eastern Moors were put in place. By 1989 a countryside maintenance team had been appointed to work specifically on footpath work.
The 40th anniversary of the National Park in 1991 was significant for the increase in access land on the eastern side of the Park. Agreements were reached with Chatsworth Estates covering the moors above the parkland and with Sheffield City Council for 2073 acres of Houndkirk, Burbage and Hathersage moors. The total access area was now 81 sq. miles (half the total area of open country in the Park). In the same year the Pennine Way maintenance team started the mammoth task of restoring the Pennine Way.
1992 was notable for the closure of 80 sq. miles of access land following a number of serious fires and providing a challenge for the service in public relations. Another significant development was a pilot scheme involving rangers in environmental awareness projects that were ultimately to lead to the appointment of an Education Ranger. Langsett Barn opened as a briefing centre, information centre and community centre in 1993 providing improved facilities for the north east corner of the Park.
The ranger service 40th anniversary was celebrated in April 1994 at Losehill Hall with the first full-time warden Tom Tomlinson making his last appearance before his death in 1995. Ken Drabble bade farewell to the ranger service after 34 years' service and Sean Prendergast became the new Chief Ranger. The service was restructured with the district ranger posts being replaced by senior rangers with responsibility for communications and logistics, training & development and health & safety. 23 full-time rangers operated 'in the field'. A change of uniform created a new image and made rangers more visible to visitors. Moorland fires in 1995 brought a further closure of access land. The first ever professional qualification for national park rangers pioneered by the Peak District ranger service received approval by Oxford University in 1997 and heralded another chapter in the development of the Peak District National Park ranger service - a long way from the weekend training courses at Edale School in the 1950s.
The new millennium
2001 saw the challenge of the outbreak of foot and mouth in the country, with the ranger service ensuring the footpaths were closed and subsequently reopened to the public at the appropriate times. The ranger service also had a role to play in keeping the public informed and liaising with the local communities.
Easter 2003 was noted for a number of serious fires on the moorlands of the Peak District with fires of particular severity on Kinder Scout and Bleaklow. The ranger service with our partners from the Fire Services, including those from Derbyshire, Greater Manchester and Staffordshire, the National Trust and gamekeepers rose to the challenge of restricting damage as far as possible and eventually getting the fires under control.
The new millennium has seen the ranger service rising to new challenges such reaching out to socially excluded groups so that they may have the opportunity and confidence to enjoy the National Park. Recent years have also seen the rangers work more effectively with the other services of the Authority.
The 50th anniversary of the service was celebrated in April 2004 with an exhibition of the work of the ranger service through time and a guided walk around the boundary of the National Park.
The major challenge of being the first National Park to implement the Countryside and Rights of Way Act was met by the ranger service in September 2004 with the Access Officer and rangers working with landowners, farmers and ramblers to ensure that the newly mapped open land was successfully opened up to the public.
The ranger service will continue to meet the challenges of countryside management in the new millennium opening up opportunities for all sectors of society to access the National Park and ensuring that we continue to promote the understanding of this special place.