Wednesday, May 10

Dartmoor Wildcamping Access

It was clear that during this trip Dartmoor's weather was just not going to be playing nicely. That's the problem with having to book holiday leave so many weeks in advance.

In theory I potentially had a few days free for wildcamping. 

In practise the weather forecast was highly erratic, and had been for most of the week.

And those who know Dartmoor understand how just how unpleasant that can get at times.

But it seemed a pity to bring all the gear without bedding it down ready for the rest of 2023. 

Last visit had been a night's wildcamp on Rippon Tor

All of which has diverted my attention away from my planned trip report to reflect on the recent shitshow over access rights for Dartmoor wildcamping.

For, you see. Rippon Tor, according to the DNPA Access map. is now 'off-limits', and it would be an offence to wildcamp there.


From local Dartmoor contacts I spoke to on this trip, the wildcamping 'ban' enforcement was viewed as being unenforceable on the ground, and hence effectively being ignored. 

Particularly by those experienced wildcampers who understand the ethos and how to carry it out on the ground.

Having been involved in an earlier campaign for wildcamping access back in 2008 most of the arguments I'd worked over years ago in much detail. And now, as then, it was clear that without considerable political support, and money, little would change.

[Archives about that campaign can be found here - but here was the final outcome:

"23 June 2008/We received a petition asking:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to legalise wild camping in England and Wales."

Details of Petition:
"Currently without the landowners concent it is illegal to wild camp on the moors, mountains, National Parks and MOD land. It is time to give people the same rights as those given North of the Border in Scotland to allow them to wild camp in these places without threat of legal action."

The Government's response
This Government appreciates the potential benefits of wild camping in England and its attractiveness to campers who already have the opportunity to camp in the wild in Scotland.

The Land Reform Act in Scotland allows for wild camping, but the land issues and the legislation in England are somewhat different. The introduction of wild camping in England would be a controversial issue, which would require both significant consultation and legislative change.

On open access land wild camping is prohibited under Schedule 2 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which lists all restricted activities. Therefore, new Regulations would be required to exclude wild camping as a restricted activity. Any change to the current rules on wild camping in National Parks and Ministry of Defence land would require new primary legislation.

The Government has no plans to allocate the necessary resources to consider proposals for such legislation at present, and is concentrating on following up the successful introduction of 750,000 hectares of open access land with new legislation on access to the coast in the 
Marine Bill, which is currently going through Parliament." 

[By the way - No idea whatever happened to that last point]]

My personal response to that was blogged at the time - and to be honest it remains an approach I would take today if I feel the desire to do so.


Coming up to date....

The post covid camping/party madness on Dartmoor (and across the UK) definitely didn't help build support for 'proper' wildcamping access. As I recall some areas of Scotland suffered clampdowns on existing access rights as a result.

Meanwhile DNPA has been drawn into an expensive legal battle that I personally think they are unlikely to win, using limited funds that they really cannot afford to spend, with likely cut backs elsewhere as a result. 

But to stand by is also not a good alternative - they are buggered whichever way they turn.

On the plus side its exposed the machinations of one particularly rich and powerful landowner. Well what a shocker!

More positively it has shown the strong community support from other Dartmoor landowners across the area, especially on the military ranges.

Peversely researching this trip I've spent more time poring over the detail of the DNPA Camping Map than I have ever in the past. With the result that I've now spotted some hidden gems in isolated areas, places where before I would never have even considered camping.

When I look in the mirror these days I  see that devilish glint starting to look back at me. 

It seems to say ...

'You know exactly who is responsible for the infamous court action.

You know precise area of empty moorland that they regard as so vital to protect.

Looks like a fun - lets go visit - I feel a wildcamp a coming on'

So that all worked out wonderfully then!  

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