Photo: Mike Rego
Members gathered at South Brent Village Hall on Saturday 7 May as Alan Endacott gave his final address as Vice Chair.
Society President Peter Beacham along with newly-elected Chair Bill Murray and Secretary Caya Edwards paid warm tribute to Alan for the contribution he has made, giving the Society direction and leadership for 3 years whilst the position of Chair has been vacant.
The Dartmoor Society has benefited from his wide-ranging knowledge of historic landscapes and their management. As an archaeologist, he has an understanding of Dartmoor’s sensitive archaeological landscapes. He was the founder and the first curator of the Museum of Dartmoor life and has an extensive knowledge of local traditions, artefacts and farming. During his tenure as Vice Chair he has stayed focused on the positive ways that the society can contribute to the wellbeing of Dartmoor.
Alan’s ability to communicate and negotiate has resulted in stronger ties with key Dartmoor organisations. The 2021 conference: ‘Hallowed Turf: Perspectives on the conservation of Dartmoor’s blanket peat’, was initiated by Alan because it provided an opportunity for people to hear more about the current peatland restoration work on the high moor and the science underpinning it, as well as to question those involved. Although the Dartmoor Society is critical of many aspects of peat restoration, by taking a neutral stance and providing a platform for debate, it gave everyone a chance to make their own judgements and gain a greater understanding of the various perspectives and views from those actually involved.
Alan has an eye on the long and short-term impacts of change. During the height of the Covid pandemic he wrote to the BBC emphasising the huge environmental pressures that TV and radio programmes can cause by encouraging visitors to vulnerable landscapes.
Responding to press reports in 2020, Alan investigated the claim that Natural England required all sheep to be removed from Okehampton Commons over the winter. This was typical of Alan’s style, to broker constructive, face-to-face negotiations, and it was his decision to follow this up and ask Natural England’s Eamon Crowe to speak at the 2021 AGM that resulted in frank feedback and debate.
Alan’s legacy has been to forge closer ties with other Dartmoor organisations and engender a greater understanding of differing viewpoints. He recognises that land management issues stem from a range of different perspectives depending on whether you are a farmer, ecologist, archaeologist, whether you earn your living on Dartmoor or want to simply enjoy its landscapes.
In September 2021 the Dartmoor Society visited Elvan Farm, the land his father farmed. During this visit Alan was delighted to be able to demonstrate exemplary stewardship by farmer Steve Alford where farming and wildlife co-exist.
Alan’s leadership has pressed home the point that this landscape is vulnerable to the whims of the policy-makers of successive governments. He has reaffirmed the Dartmoor Society’s role as scrutineers of legislation or policies that might have a detrimental impact on the moor or its communities.
In his own words, ‘Dartmoor’s place as one of northern Europe’s finest cultural landscapes seems to be frequently played down and its cultural vulnerability ignored. What we have is unique and amazing, let’s celebrate and learn from it!’.