A Holmfirth man is retiring after 26 years as a full-time ranger for the Peak District National Park.

Andy Valentine, 63, is stepping down with a plea to the many thousands of people who visit the 550 square miles of woods, moorland and reservoirs with the plea: “Enjoy the countryside – but respect it.”

Andy, who hails from Saddleworth, joined the ranger service in September, 1991, after a career in local government, first in highways and planning at the former West Yorkshire County Council and later as a rights of way officer with Leeds City Council.

Based at Dovestones, he is one of 15 full-time rangers patrolling the national park, working with landowners such as Yorkshire Water, dealing with litter, tackling anti-social behaviour and carrying out minor maintenance work. The work of the full-time rangers is supplemented by the efforts of about 250 volunteers, who work at weekends.

Dovestone car park, Bank Lane, Saddleworth, Oldham

Mr Valentine, who works in the areas of the park in Kirklees and Oldham, said his role was also to act as a “buffer” between visitors using the park for leisure and recreation and the people who live and work there.

“There are 38,000 residents in towns, villages and farms in the Peak District National Park,” he said. “It’s a working landscape with people farming, keeping game and working in quarries. There’s always potential for conflict.”

Mr Valentine said he had seen an increase in anti-social behaviour during the years with more incidents of fly-tipping, indiscriminate parking, sheep worrying and illegal off-roading by people with motorbikes and 4x4s.

Andy Valentine to retire as ranger of National Park Service after 26 years.

He said: “It is a large area of moorland, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, bu it is a limited resource. It’s up to us as a nation to look after these special areas because they are the best areas we have got. They are of global significance and they deserve our protection.”

Mr Valentine, who has a wife, Kay and daughters Martha, 15, and Shona, 13, said if we was to give visitors advice as he prepares to retire next month, it was to warn against starting fires – which could be “disastrous” for the moorland – and to keep dogs on leads to void disturbing wildlife and livestock.

He said retirement would allow him to devote more time to his “neglected” garden, but said he might continue hi connections with the national park as a volunteer. “It’s been an opportunity to work in a fantastic place for a wonderful cause and with some wonderful people,” he said.