WELL-known Ranger Ian Brooker is retiring from Dartmoor National Park Authority after a long career in protecting landscapes.

Ian joined DNPA on May 21,1990, and has spent the last 32 years serving communities in the north of the moor as well as raising the profile of being a Ranger on the worldwide stage.

Before that, he worked as a Warden for Horsham District Council at Southwater Country Park and Warnham Nature Reserve. He already knew Dartmoor from his interests in climbing and walking.

At that time, the Authority hadn’t yet been created as a stand-alone organisation; it was still a Devon County Council National Park Committee.

Shortly after he joined, the National Park boundaries were amended to include Sticklepath – a village he has proudly served as part of his patch for his entire time as a Ranger.

‘When I started, communication was very different,’ Ian recalls. ‘There was no laptops or mobile phones; letters were handwritten and given to typists and my vehicle had a radio which could pick up the highways department in South Wales, but not staff on Dartmoor!

‘Communication is so much better now – people can message you instantly – but that does mean expectations have changed too. It’s the biggest difference since I first started.’

On Dartmoor, Ian was instrumental in setting up the successful Voluntary Warden scheme and helped set up the Sticklepath and Okehampton Conservation Group (StOC) which paved the way for other community-led groups.

‘Being a Ranger is a wonderful job,’ he said.

‘You meet so many different people and organisations all the time. You can’t ignore people and if you do, it’s not the job for you! That involvement with the communities is probably what I will miss most when I retire from the ‘thin green line’.’

Ian has also experienced life as a Ranger in other parts of the world: in 1999/2000, he organised an exchange with Canadian counterpart Chris McCarthy and spent nine months in Gros Morne National Park on Newfoundland’s west coast.

‘It was an incredible experience,’ said Ian.

‘It was where my love for wildlife surveying started, and I completed my Bird Ringing and Dormouse licences soon after returning to the UK.

‘I was able to bring back some practical ideas too – for example installing a boardwalk at Pixies Moor, South Tawton, using the Canadian-style of a floating boardwalk rather than fixed.’

Ian is a long-serving member of the Countryside Management Association and is the vice-president of the European Ranger Federation (ERF); the regional organisation which works under the wider umbrella of the International Ranger Federation. Both organisations work to represent and support the interests of Rangers worldwide.

‘I’m always humbled when I speak to Rangers from other parts of the world,’ said Ian.

‘Rangers working in Africa’s protected areas are often under threat from poachers and put their lives on the line for their jobs.

‘Rangers in Nepal only see their families for about two weeks a year. Meeting them and hearing about their jobs helps you learn a lot about how to do things and gives you a better perspective on life.”

After 40 years of protecting our landscapes, Ian retires today, Thursday, and will take some time to think about what he’d like to do next.

He said: ‘One ambition is to cruise the canal network in a narrowboat, and I might do a bit of volunteering too. I won’t disappear from Dartmoor completely, though!’

Simon Lee, Dartmoor National Park’s ranger team manager, said: ‘I’m not sure how I can begin to convey the commitment, enthusiasm, professionalism and passion Ian has given to his role over the last 32 years and he will leave a big hole in the Ranger team.

‘Ian’s commitment and passion are clear to see when walking around his sector or talking with the communities and landowners that he has worked so closely with.

‘We wish him all the very best for his retirement.’