Ian Mercer, the first chief executive in 1990 of the newly-formed Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), has died aged 83 in Devon.
Ian held the post for five years during which time he brought together the disciplines of landscape, recreation and wildlife conservation for the first time in Wales. He invented the ground-breaking Tir Cymen scheme, the forerunner of the current Glastir, whereby farmers and landowners received annual payments in return for the positive management of their land for the benefit of wildlife, landscape, archaeology and geology, and for providing public access.
Ian had a number of other firsts to his name: he was the first warden of Slapton Field Centre in south Devon, the first county conservation officer in England and Wales, the first Dartmoor National Park Officer and the first secretary general of the Association of National Park Authorities.
In 1996 he was made a CBE for ‘services to the environment in Wales’. In 1991 he was appointed honorary Professor of Rural Conservation Practice at the University of Wales.
He held numerous other offices: he was president of the Field Studies Council and of the Devon Wildlife Trust, vice-president of the Campaign for National Parks and chairman of the South West Uplands Federation to name a few He wrote the second edition of the New Naturalist’s Dartmoor (2009), a 400-page magnum opus.
Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘Ian was an immense influence on a whole generation of nature lovers and national park enthusiasts. Although he spent much of his life in bureaucratic organisations, his love of the natural world shone through and inspired others to follow in his footsteps.
‘In Wales he had the difficult task of bringing together landscape, public access and wildlife interests. The voluntary bodies, including the Open Spaces Society, were sceptical that this could be done, but with his brilliant negotiating skills Ian created an effective organisation with a clear role, able to champion all our interests.
Says John Lloyd Jones, former chairman of CCW: ‘Ian was a huge man in many senses. Whoever thought of appointing Ian as the first chief executive, and the late Michael Griffith as the first chairman of CCW was a genius. They both had an acute understanding of how Wales’s rural society worked and a deep commitment to its continuation and development.
‘Ian passionately believed in the importance of natural beauty and the inherent goodness of land managers, if properly understood and motivated. Tir Cymen, and subsequently Tir Gofal, were proof of his legacy.
‘He was inordinately pleased of his Fellowship of the Royal Agricultural Society which he received in Wales. I am so glad to have known him, learnt from him and had the occasion to share the odd pint with him over many years. Rural society will be the poorer for his passing.’
Says Gareth Wyn Jones, former director of policy and research and chief scientist of CCW, and then appointed by Ian as his deputy: ‘I was privileged to work for and with Ian during the early heady days of CCW. It was rare privilege which I treasure. Ian was inspirational, larger than life and a wonderful colleague, friend and leader. He made many, many friends and admirers in Wales and a great contribution to our small nation.’
For more information about the Open Spaces Society visit: www.oss.org.uk