ONE of the men who was instrumental in shaping today’s North York Moors has died at the age of 76.

Derek Statham was national park officer at the North York Moors National Park for 20 years, presiding over a time of great change for both the Moors and those tasked with caring for them.

During his management he oversaw a number of initiatives that had a lasting legacy, including the successful opposition of plans to dam and flood Farndale to create a reservoir.

He was also behind the purchase of the Hole of Horcum when it was in danger of being ploughed and the launch of a pioneering farm conservation scheme that has only recently come to an end.

He was also one of four founding members of the North Yorkshire Moors Association, an independent charity set up in 1985 to campaign on behalf of the national park, and was latterly its president.

He joined the old North Riding Council as National Parks senior planning officer in 1965 – overseeing both the North York Moors and part of the Yorkshire Dales.

The reorganisation of local government in 1972 led to the creation of a new North York Moors National Park Department and Mr Statham was national park officer until his retirement in 1994.

Michael Webster worked alongside him for 17 years and said: “Derek was totally committed to the values of national parks and was a great defender and champion of the North York Moors at both a county and national level.”

Current national park officer Andy Wilson described Mr Statham as a “stalwart and quietly inspired leader.”

He said: “The strong and cohesive relationships we have today with those who live and work here began in his time.”