Thursday 19 January 2023

Dartmoor Wild Camping: A Concession With Worrying Implications

Dartmoor National Park has worked fast to come up with a solution of sorts to the court ruling banning wild camping without the landowners permission that I wrote about in my last post. There's now an agreement with some landowners to allow wild camping in the areas marked on this map. Progress then? Of a sort - wild camping will be allowed again on some parts of Dartmoor. However this is just a sop. What it establishes is the power of the landowners.

The new arrangement is actually quite invidious. The quotes below are from the Dartmoor National Park.

"The new agreements will involve a payment to landowners by DNPA, but the amount has not yet been discussed in detail. These costs have not been budgeted for by the Authority.  We will be writing to Defra to ask if they will provide funding to support this process."

So Darwall, the landowner who took the case to court, will now be paid for allowing campers on his land, as will other landowners. This should not happen. No national park should be paying landowners to let people camp wild. This is an outrageous use of public money.

Apart from the fact that national parks are underfunded as it is this sets a dangerous precedent too. What else will landowners decide they can charge for? And how will landowners in other national parks in England and Wales react? If on Dartmoor why not the Peak District, Snowdonia, the Lake District?  

"Permissive Backpack (wild) camping allowed" on some parts of the moor (less than under the previous position). This is a concession that can be changed or taken away as landowners choose. It's no longer a legal right as wild camping should be, as it is in Scotland. This deal reduces access and freedom. Here's where you are allowed to camp, here's where you can't. Wild camping corralled, controlled, regulated isn't wild camping at all.

Unsurprisingly this has not gone down well with access and outdoor bodies. The Ramblers say "because our access rights have been reduced to permissive rights, it allows landowners the freedom to withdraw or attach conditions to this permission in the future. The legal right to wild camp on Dartmoor should be fully re-established".  The BMC says "we believe that wild camping should encompass the freedom to choose where to camp, when to camp, without any regulations, to be self-sufficient and to do so in a discreet and responsible manner.  Referring to maps to pre-plan a camp, applying for permission, and relying on the whim of landowners doesn’t give visitors the certainty and freedom to explore Dartmoor in the way they may have wished". 

On Twitter Right to Roam says they and @EveryonesStars @Team_BMC and @RamblersGB are agreed: any deal which reduces long held rights to wafer thin 'permissive' agreements with major landowners is unacceptable. There must be a full restoration of public rights on Dartmoor.

I'll be supporting the campaigns to restore the legal position on Dartmoor and to extend access and wild camping rights in England and Wales. 


  1. Well said Chris and I totally agree.

    Unfortunately if this goes through this will probably be just another nail in the coffin with the limited access to (the vast quantities of) land in England. The way the law works in England it does not bode well.

    As if they (the landowners) don't have enough money already. Sadly it never seems to be enough.

    I myself live near a national park (not Dartmoor) and wild camp and will continue to do so responsibly.



  2. A well-written article Chris. The public reaction is gathering momentum - 3,000 people on today's protest on the Moor. Quoting a friend of mine "(it's) a return to feudal values where we’re supposed to be grateful for the lord of the manor's largesse"

  3. It seems to be part of the whole direction we are going in: a new form of feudalism driven by ever more extreme inequality. The arrogance of very rich people like Darwall is increasingly out of control. In the past these people made at least some effort to hide their contempt for all the rest of us. Increasingly they don't bother. In my opinion they will just keep going on and on with it unless we all band together and put a stop to it. I am not confident that people these days have the gumption for that. Anxious times.

  4. It’s our land not theirs, it was stolen from us and it’s time to take it back. Let’s make the darwalls and their like rue the day they brought this court action. I fully support and will be actively involved in getting the right to roam. It may take time but I think this has woken up a lot of people.

  5. Unfortunately, although I assume the DNPA are doing this in good faith they are actually causing a bigger problem. They should be negotiating getting the park back to the pre ruling status not getting money for rich landowners.

  6. If you not already I invite you to my channel search my name on YouTube anyone interested and check my two videos on this. But more importantly thsn me as others are much more clued up. Read the comments by Richard Barrett.

  7. Another thing I have from good authority is the new map is suspiciously like one DNP put to members or public consultation a year or so ago. I have a video up on that and fires and cutting trees. Richard approached me due to camping so long there and he likes my attitude to camping and Dartmoor and followed my channel long time.

  8. Thanks for all the comments. The latest news is the DNP have applied to appeal the decision and the Labour Party has said it will pass access laws allowing wild camping when next in government.