In 1951 the Peak District became Britain's first national park. One of the first tasks was to provide access to the wonderful expanses of high open moorland within the Park. Access agreements with landowners were drawn up allowing people to enjoy walking and climbing on the moors without having to keep to rights of way.
In 1954 the Peak District National Park scored another first when the National Park warden service was formed, one full-time warden, assisted by a few enthusiastic volunteers, helped manage such access areas. In 1974 their work was widened to cover the whole of the 555sq mile National Park and their title was changed from warden to ranger. 1997 saw the Peak Park Joint Planning Board gaining full powers and becoming a National Park Authority. Today the ranger service is divided into fourteen areas each managed by an area ranger. There are a further eight full-time rangers and a Pennine Way ranger, with over 300 part-time and volunteer rangers. This team, along with the Access Officer and the Rights of Way Officer, helped to successfully implement the Countryside and Rights of Way Act within the Peak District National Park in late 2004. The wider team includes countryside volunteers, access, rights of way, recreation facilities, area management, Moors for the Future and of course administrative support based at the National Park Office. Although the scope of the job has expanded since those early days, the essence remains the same: to provide a key point of contact between the National Park Authority, local people and visitors.
Rangers and the National Park
One of the most popular ways people enjoy the National Park is by using the open land as defined under the CRoW Act and the extensive number of footpaths, bridleways and byways. Rangers help to look after this open land and routes, discussing details with landowners and highway authorities before building stiles or footbridges, signing routes or repairing worn out surfaces. Rangers also work closely with other services of the Authority helping to deliver practical actions relating to biodiversity, archaeology and landscape improvements. There are many millions of visits each year to the National Park, making it one of the most visited National Parks in the world. Rangers have extensive knowledge of what to see, where to go and the history, both human and natural, of the National Park. Formal contact can include advising people on appropriate behavior on open land within the National Park. Although the initial approach is always one of friendly advice, the opportunity is taken to try to convey a conservation message in all contact with visitors.
Rangers and local people
Community links are increasing. For example, rangers have formed a local WATCH group, an environmental youth organisation; and are forging improved links between the Park and its 50 primary schools, an essential part of village life. Rangers provide help to local people especially during emergencies such as flooding, moorland fires or severe winter weather. The ranger service is often the first point of contact in sorting out any problems and misunderstandings which occur between local people and visitors. A typical instance is where people regularly stray from the correct line of a footpath, which can often be solved by a ranger marking the route to the benefit of both landowner and walker.
Stay safe in the countryside
The weather in the Peak District, especially on the high open moorland, can change rapidly from a fine sunny day, to thick fog and growing coldness. At Information Centres and Ranger Briefing Centres warnings are given to walkers of treacherous weather conditions or other possible dangers. However some visitors may not be fully prepared for weather changes and difficult terrain and may become lost or have an accident. Winters in the Peak District often bring low temperatures with snow, wind and rain which can easily lead to cases of hypothermia for those walking on the higher hills. If you are visiting the Peak District National Park make sure you are well prepared in case the weather conditions alter. Carry enough food and water and know how to use your map and compass Long dry hot summers can result in peat moors becoming so dry that a careless discarded cigarette is enough to ignite the peat into a raging fire which, because of the nature of the material, can burn for weeks. One fire alone in 1997, during the height of the breeding season, destroyed approximately 35 acres of open moorland having devastating effects on vegetation, birds and other wildlife for many years. Please help us to look after the fragile moorland by taking home cigarette stubs in dry weather and if you see unattended moorland fires phone the fire brigade with details of location.
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