Agreement reached following Dartmoor wild camping discussions (Thursday 19th)

Posted by Niall Grimes on 19/01/2023
Wild Dartmoor. Photo Niall Grimes

BMC Access & Conservation Officer, Cath Flitcroft, reports on the latest news on the banning of wild camping on Dartmoor.

Last week, a ruling from the High Court dealt a blow to wilderness and adventure lovers in the UK. Wild camping is to be banned in Dartmoor. However, the National Park have now reached an agreement that will enable people to continue wild camping in parts of Dartmoor National Park.

The Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association and the National Park Authority met yesterday (18 January 2023) to discuss how wild camping on the Dartmoor Commons might be facilitated going forward. Agreement was reached in principle on the following:
•    Landowners will grant permission to the Authority to allow the public to wild camp through a permissive agreement.
•    This new system will provide clear guidance on what constitutes wild camping based on the principle of ‘leave no trace’.
•    Areas where the public can wild camp without seeking individual permission from landowners will be communicated via an interactive map on Dartmoor National Park Authority’s website in the coming days.

Anyone planning to wild camp now or in the future must refer to the interactive map and follow all ‘leave no trace’ principles.

Whilst the agreement is completed, wild camping (including Ten Tors and The Duke of Edinburgh Award) is permitted with immediate effect.

John Howell, Chair of Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association, said: “We recognise the importance of people being able to enjoy the natural beauty of Dartmoor, including through wild camping, and the benefits that this can bring."

Dr Kevin Bishop, Chief Executive of Dartmoor National Park Authority, said:  “We have all worked quickly and collectively to ensure clarity is provided. Our thanks go to those involved in the discussions who have engaged in this process so positively and proactively. We’re committed to working together to continue all our good work that helps keep Dartmoor special for everyone.”

All present at the meeting were clear that there is no place for illegal fly camping on Dartmoor. ‘Fly camping’, which often involves large groups with barbecues or open fires, should not be confused with true wild camping and will continue to be prohibited.

Whilst the BMC welcomes this announcement, 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.  We hope Dartmoor National Park Authority wins leave to appeal and that we can establish that there is a clear right to wild camp on all of Dartmoor’s wild places.

Rest assured that the BMC, along with the other groups we are working with, including the National Park, Open Spaces Society, Ramblers, Right to Roam, Under The Stars and others, are fully and actively opposed to any restrictions on wild camping on Dartmoor. We see it as a fundamental threat to the freedom to enjoy wild spaces in this country, and the many benefits that this brings, at a time when the need is greater than ever.

WATCH: Respect the Wild: expert wild camping tips


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Anonymous User
19/01/2023
I still cannot fathom how a High Court judge can assess that camping is secondary to the activity of hiking. Has he ever been down a High Street and wandered into George Fishers, or Cotswold or any of the plethora of camping shops? Specialising in lightweight equipment.
Or has he spoken to someone like me, who has a wild camp 'somewhere' planned and the walk is just a means to get to the camp, which is the primary purpose.
Does he know anything about Dartmoor? The logistics of asking for permission in advance, only for the weather to 'turn' and all plans are off, as happens quite often. Or vice versa, an unexpected dry forecast, and a spontaneous camp, 'somewhere' on the moor. When I go out, I often have no idea where I am going to camp until I find a suitable spot. Which on another night, might be a totally unsuitable spot.
Truly, there is no understanding of this.
I feel.qualified to comment having wild camped for 45 years. I rarely see another camper, and have never had a conversation with a landowner, let alone one asking me to move.
Anonymous User
20/01/2023
I wild camp frequently on Dartmoor, I have always consulted the interactive map and I have never left a trace. Unless the new interactive map has significantly fewer available places on it to wild camp than before, then I think this new agreement looks remarkably like what we had before, albeit that the new agreement is a permissive agreement rather than one that felt more of a right (whatever the complexities of the relevant regulations). I'd like to thank and congratulate the DCOA and NPA for coming up with a workable and common sense agreement so promptly.
Anonymous User
31/01/2023
I think it's a good thing. Dartmoor needs to be preserved, it's so unique and fragile. Camping can cause damage. the DNP are doing great job in trying to protect it and they would know areas that need an extra care.
Just like sticking to path in many other parks. Why not sticking to permitted areas of wild camping only.

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