Ian Mercer (1933 – 2016)
A life of ‘natural’ achievement
If you love and enjoy Dartmoor and the other National Parks in the UK then you owe a debt of gratitude to Ian Mercer; a man who dedicated his professional life to the natural environment, to sustaining our best landscapes so that we, and future generations, can enjoy them. He was a ‘natural’ leader whose work, ideas, achievements and vision have helped inspire others. His career was glittered with a number of firsts:
- first National Park Officer for Dartmoor;
- first Chief Executive for the Countryside Council for Wales; and
- first Director General of the Association of National Park Authorities.
Ian was a Black Country boy turned West Country man. He was introduced to Dartmoor in 1952 by his then University tutor. In 1971 he became the County Conservation Officer for Devon where he had responsibility for the warden and information services of the Dartmoor National Park Committee. In 1973 he was appointed as the first National Park Officer for Dartmoor – a post that he held for 17 years.
Ian had a desire to ensure that Dartmoor remained a grazed landscape and that the families who have sustained it through the generations remain a part of it for generations to come. He helped steer the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 through Parliament – a pioneering piece of legislation that provided a precedent for upland commons management. During his ‘so-called retirement’ Ian was invited by the Commoners to Chair the Commoners’ Council. An accolade that meant a lot to him: “Was ever such an honour offered to someone who felt he already owed the landscape, which the Council oversees, so much?
He championed the use of management agreements to secure both the Dartmoor landscape and assist the faming families he thought so important. More recently he was involved in Dartmoor Farming Futures – an award winning initiative to provide farmers on Dartmoor with greater involvement in the design, delivery and monitoring of agri-environment agreements.
At the last UK National Parks conference in 2015, held in his beloved Dartmoor, Ian was presented with the ‘Order of the National Parks’ – a heart-felt thank you from the National Park family for his life-time of achievements and inspiration.
I count myself lucky in that I had the privilege to work with Ian. First in Wales, when he was Chief Executive of the Countryside Council for Wales, and then when I was appointed as the third National Park Officer for Dartmoor. Ian was a larger than life character with an ability to command a room, a thinker and a visionary. He was a delight to work with, had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Dartmoor and an instinct for what would and would not work. Despite his many achievements he was humble and always genuine. He leaves a lasting legacy: his contribution to a living landscape and a National Park for future generations to enjoy.
Chief Executive (National Park Officer)