Exmoor National Park Rangers past and present have gathered today on North Hill for World Ranger Day and the unveiling of a new 1.5-mile circular route in memory of Exmoor’s first ever Ranger, Jim Collins.
The walk, which starts and finishes at the car park near the old tank training grounds on North Hill near Minehead (grid ref: SS953474), was one of Jim’s favourites for its breathtaking views across Exmoor and the Bristol Channel. It was overlooked by the house he lived in until his death last year, aged 95.
At a gathering attended by dozens of Exmoor Rangers from over the decades, Dan Barnett, Exmoor National Park’s Head Ranger, said: “Jim maintained strong ties with the National Park right up to his death and I’m sure he’d be delighted to see his name commemorated as part of Exmoor’s much-celebrated Rights of Way network, which he helped create.
“Jim was a real trailblazer and evidence of the work he started can be seen all over the National Park. This included some of the first waymarked rights of way and permissive routes on Exmoor, a task that meant winning over the hearts and minds of farmers, landowners and the public. It’s a skill still central to the job of rangering and to the success of our now 1,300km-long access network, that we’re delighted to be celebrating here today with Jim’s family.”
Close family of Jim’s have attended the gathering to witness the unveiling of a new fingerpost naming the route ‘Jim’s Path’. His son, Phil Collins, said: “It’s wonderful to see such a gathering of Jim’s friends and colleagues, with some I know who have travelled from as far as Australia. It’s not hard to see why rangering in such a beautiful landscape leaves its mark, but it takes someone special to see that it’s the people who make the place, and my father was testament to that.”
A display celebrating Jim’s life, and comparing how the job of the Exmoor Ranger has changed over the years, went on show in National Park Centre in Dunster last week.
Robin Milton, Chair of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “With National Parks this year celebrating 70 years since the ground-breaking law that created them, it’s good to be reminded of the early pioneers who first breathed life into the vision of National Parks as the living, working landscapes we all know and love today.”
PHOTO: Exmoor’s first three Head Rangers – David Beazley, Jim Collins and Bill Gurnett, 1980s.