Ramblers pays tribute to Vice President John Foster, CBE – a pioneer of national parks

An older manTributes have been paid to John Foster, vice president of Ramblers Scotland and Ramblers GB, who died at the beginning of July aged 99 - he would have reached his 100th birthday in August.  

First elected a vice president of Ramblers Scotland in 1986 at the second Scottish Council meeting, John went on to become president from 1995-1998. He continued to play an active role in our work for nearly 35 years.  

A key figure in the campaign for the establishment of National Parks in Scotland, John was a lifelong supporter of the Ramblers and earned widespread respect for his unstinting efforts and commitment to the joint causes of access and conservation throughout his career - from being the first ever chief executive of the Peak District National Park to his appointment as Director of the Countryside Commission for Scotland from 1968 to 1985.  

Dave Morris, former director of Ramblers Scotland, said: "After retiring from CCS, John still showed great commitment to countryside protection and public enjoyment. This was not only through his continuing support for the long running campaign to get national parks established in Scotland, but also through his involvement with Ramblers Scotland, not only for his period as President, but also for regular attendance at the annual meetings.

“Remarkably, that continued into his 90s. I know of no other senior public servant who, once they left governmental service, continued in their retirement to be so supportive of the voluntary environmental sector, over several decades.”

Dave added: “John also helped considerably during the work that led up to the establishment of statutory access rights through the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. His high-profile presence within Ramblers Scotland carried a lot of weight as we steadily built up support for pretty radical legislation amongst the wider environmental community and sympathetic landowner interests.” 

John was appointed CBE for his work in Scotland’s landscapes.

Alison Mitchell, Convener of the Ramblers Scottish Council executive committee, said: “He was respected on both sides of the border and his passing is sad, even into his 90s he travelled from his home in Crieff to attend our Scottish Council meetings.”

Kate Ashbrook, Ramblers Chair, commented: “John was a significant figure in the national parks movement, in the UK and internationally.  He set the tone for our national parks in England, Scotland and Wales, with his broad perspective and foresight.  He helped to defuse the tensions between nature conservation and access, and always championed public enjoyment as a vital role of the national parks and the wider countryside.  He had the most engaging personality and it was a pleasure to converse with him at Scottish Council meetings over the years.” 


A lovely summary of a man's career in helping us to do what we love. Proof, as if it was needed, that spending time outdoors is a healthy thing to do. May we all reach such a great age!