Reflections on friend and colleague Paul Hamblin

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Friends and colleagues from across the UK National Parks family were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Paul Hamblin in September 2023 after a long battle with illness.

Most recently Executive Director at National Parks England (NPE) until poor health forced him to step back from day-to-day involvement in 2021, Paul’s commitment, passion and razor-sharp policy mind has left an indelible mark on the work of NPE and how our politicians – and the public - view the vital role of our national parks.

Our protected landscapes and the outdoors were always at the forefront of Paul’s career; from time at the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), to joining what was then the ‘English National Park Authorities Association (ENPAA) in 2007.

Neil Heseltine, Chair of National Parks England paid tribute to Paul’s career serving the interests of national parks “Paul had a wonderful knowledge of Westminster, coupled with a thoroughness and professionalism so often needed in what can be a long slog of policy development. But he was also grounded in the reality of what it means to champion the special qualities of our national parks”.

“The name ENPAA hardly rolls off the tongue”, says David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, “but Paul’s freshness of approach also came with a good deal of enthusiasm – and an often unrivalled sense of makes national parks tick. That ability to cut through noise and bring much needed brevity to these complex topics also meant that we stepped away from being the ENPAA to the sharper and more focused National Parks England that continues Paul’s work today.”

For David, Paul’s enthusiasm was perhaps the greatest attribute to be remembered by. “Whether it was important parliamentary lobbying at myriad gatherings, developing initiatives such as ‘Love your National Parks’ or simply getting hands-on with new facilities, Paul was always at the heart of it.”

Alison Barnes, chief executive at the New Forest National Park said of Paul: “He tirelessly supported the network of officers throughout all the disciplines across our National Parks, enabling them to share practice and grow their careers; nurturing a true family across the nation of passionate, professional and dedicated staff, amongst whom he will be greatly missed.”

“Paul was ultimately a decent, caring human being, with a great sense of doing what was right by people and of making national parks inclusive of everyone” adds Tony Gates, chief executive at Northumberland National Park. “This has earned him the lasting respect of all his colleagues and contributed strongly to the ongoing culture of our national parks”.

Kevin Bishop, chief executive of Dartmoor National Park reflects on Paul’s legacy through National Parks England: “I count myself very lucky to have worked with Paul.  No one could question his passion, dedication and commitment to national parks.

“He was quiet but had a steely determination to do his best and always worked in partnership, reaching out to include rather than exclude.  His legacy is in helping to protect and promote the landscapes of our National Parks so all in society can enjoy them.”

September 2023