Sean Prendergast (1960-2013), who died tragically young at the age of 52, was a giant of a ranger in every sense.
Sean had worked for the Peak District National Park Authority since 1994, first as chief ranger, then as head of access and recreation and finally as head of field services. He had just been selected for the new post of assistant director of enterprise and field service when cancer cruelly overtook him.
He was totally committed to his work of making the national park a welcoming place to the public, while championing its wild qualities and inspiring countless schoolchildren and students. He had a wicked sense of humour and was a straight talker, he was kind and generous and tremendous fun.
He was a great doer, nothing was impossible for Sean. He organised an effective quick-response service to deal with fires on the moors for instance, involving a number of agencies working together efficiently.
Andy Farmer, the Peak Park’s field services north area manager, spoke at Sean’s funeral: ‘When this giant of a man blew into our professional lives it was like a force of nature, a tornado slamming into the Peak District National Park ranger service. The force of his arrival made us catch our breath, shaking us from our lethargy, and yet as time moved on you felt embraced in a warm, enveloping, caring breeze. … Sean brought professionalism, passion and a fiercely independent and razor-sharp mind to the leadership of the ranger service.’
When I was on the Countryside Agency board (1999-2006) I was the member who had responsibility for liaising with the Peak District National Park. It was a rewarding experience and also meant that I made frequent visits to my favourite venue, Losehill Hall.
The then national park officer Chris Harrison was always anxious to brief me, which he did very thoroughly in his fine, wood-panelled office at Aldern House, but I hankered to be outdoors.
My diary for 10 April 2002 records: ‘To Chris’s office where I was briefed. Then Sean came and we escaped to Cubar Edge where we sat on the rocks and talked about mapping and the access forum, and looked at rocks which were 350 million years old’. After that, we went to the Eastern Moors and Big Moor, owned by the authority, and I know that Sean shared my view that there should be more access to authority land in those pre-Countryside and Rights of Way Act times. In the afternoon, we met a journalist who wanted to interview Sean in the run-up to the Kinder 70th anniversary rally, and Sean told her to interview me as well, to give an Open Spaces Society perspective.
It was a happy, humorous and educational day—and typical of one spent with Sean.