Ally Kohler retires and Richard Drysdale rejoins the Dartmoor National Park

Laura White
Laura White

Dartmoor National Park Authority is bidding a fond farewell to a long serving member of staff – and welcomes back a familiar face.

The Authority’s Director of Conservation and Communities Ally Kohler, is retiring on 31st December, after 33 years of public service.

Richard Drysdale, who worked at the Authority between 2007 and 2018, has been appointed as Director of Conservation and Communities and starts on 4th January, 2022.

Ally Kohler

Mrs Kohler started her career on 1st November, 1988, as a Recreational Planner. She worked her way up to lead the Recreation and Access Team and progressed into different management roles involving park management, ecology, farming, the ranger service and education and engagement.

She says there have been many highlights, the most memorable ones being projects and partnerships aimed at looking after Dartmoor and making it a better place for all to enjoy.

This includes strong collaborations such as Moor than meets the eye, Dartmoor Hill Farm Project, South West Peatlands Partnership as well as many other informal and formal networks.

Mrs Kohler has also been involved in innovative schemes to promote sustainable travel and accessibility. Examples include a weekend rover bus service in the 1990s, developing an off-road cycling map in collaboration with Harvey’s – the first of its kind in the country, setting up the first ever Countryside Access Group to help people with disabilities enjoy Dartmoor, creating the Ranger Ralph club and, more recently, the successful Miles Without Stiles network.

Mrs Kohler said: “Dartmoor has been a huge part of my life. I feel very lucky to work in this fantastic landscape and with so many people who care so deeply for it. I’m leaving with some incredibly happy memories of some wonderful achievements, none of which would have been possible without the support and expertise of Authority staff over the years and co-operation of communities, farmers, landowners, stakeholders and the public. I want to record my thanks to everyone, past and present, for their help.”

Mr Drysdale previously worked for Dartmoor National Park Authority having been appointed as Sustainable Tourism and Travel Officer in 2007 after completing a Masters in Environmental Studies. He held several roles before leaving
to work for Devon Wildlife Trust as Head of Visitor Centres and then as Discover Nature Manager. He brings a wealth of managerial experience across public, private and charitable sectors as well as direct work with a range of partners. Mr Drysdale and his family live on Dartmoor and regularly explore the moor on foot and bike.

Richard Drysdale

He’s a volunteer leader for Ten Tors and gets huge satisfaction from seeing teenagers (including his two children) exploring Dartmoor and understanding the beauty but also the complexity of the National Park.

“I am incredibly excited by this role as Dartmoor has always been a very special place for me,” he said.

“I don’t underestimate the challenges ahead for the National Park, its landscape and communities, but am looking forward to working with staff, Members and all partners to manage Dartmoor now and for future generations.”

Chief Executive Dr Kevin Bishop paid tribute to Mrs Kohler’s unwavering commitment to Dartmoor National Park and gave a warm welcome to Mr Drysdale.

He said: “Ally has dedicated her professional life to the National Park and will leave an impressive track record of positive achievement.

‘She has been the inspiration behind many of the good things that Dartmoor National Park has achieved and has positively shaped the lives of many people, visitors and locals alike.

‘I look forward to working with Richard; he brings enthusiasm, passion and knowledge. I know that his first priority will be to get to know the organisation but, most importantly, to meet with our many partner organisations who are essential to the future management of the National Park.

‘We are celebrating the end of one chapter in the ‘book of Dartmoor’
but turning the page on a new and exciting chapter.”

Local Life