Friends and colleagues are mourning a "kind, generous and funny" parks manager who put his "heart and soul" into looking after Hampstead Heath.

Father-of-three Declan Gallagher's death at the age of 56 on April 30 shocked both those who worked with him and the public.

He was operations manager for City of London Corporation (CoLC), which runs Hampstead Heath, where he was described as a "fixture".

Chair of the CoLC’s Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park Committee, William Upton KC, said: “I can’t quite believe that Declan is no longer with us. His positive attitude, quiet humour, wise words, and long, invaluable experience will be greatly missed.

“He put his heart and soul into his job and we have all benefited from his many years with the City Corporation.

“Declan’s legacy lives on in the exceptional open spaces he was so dedicated to maintaining, and in the fond memories of his colleagues and of all those involved with looking after the Heath, who so valued his friendship and support.”

Ham & High: Declan Gallagher was a much loved and respected Hampstead Heath manager before his untimely death

In a joint statement, his colleagues at the corporation said: “We are still in shock after the sudden passing of our dear friend and colleague, Declan.

“He was passionate about Hampstead Heath and was one of the most kind, generous, funny, and genuine people we have had the pleasure of working with.

“In the 17 years he worked and lived on Hampstead Heath as operations manager, he was dedicated to ensuring it was safe, clean, and welcoming for millions of people to enjoy.

Ham & High: Declan GallagherDeclan Gallagher (Image: City of London Corporation)

“He was an exemplary manager to his team and led with compassion, understanding, and humour. 

"And he was highly respected in the green spaces sector, becoming a judge in the national Green Flag Award scheme.

“Our thoughts are with his family and in particular his three lovely sons, who he was so proud of, at this difficult time.”

In his spare time Mr Gallagher enjoyed refereeing rugby matches, and he died after breaking his leg in a sporting accident.

Michael Hammerson, vice president of the Highgate Society, described him as a "great guy" and said his death was a "dreadful shock", adding: "We are all very sad about it."

Friends John Etheridge and Helen Payne have set up an informal crowdfunding page to support Mr Gallagher's grieving family.

Helen, secretary of Friends of Kenwood, said: "Declan was such a lovely person and so well known. He so much had the interest of the whole of Hampstead Heath at heart and worked so hard to make it such a great place."

Musician John, who worked with him on the Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee, added: "I've known Declan on the Heath for years and he was always very friendly.

"He was one of the fixtures and one of the people I really related to as he cared about the Heath and was involved in issues and doing his best for the Heath, which is quite a struggle in modern times. 

"We very much appreciated him and it was an incredible shock he went like that.

"He'll be really missed on the Heath as he was one of the people we used to see around and was very involved."

Declan Gallagher leaves three sons.