Legal challenge threatens wild camping on Dartmoor

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 14/07/2022
Photo: Shutterstock

A legal case questioning the basis of Dartmoor National Park Authority’s bylaws, which allow for responsible wild camping has been lodged with the High Court. The BMC will continue to support the National Park in their efforts to fight this case to continue public access for wild camping across Dartmoor.

The landowners of Stall Moor, 2,784 acres of registered common land, claim there is no legal right to camp on Dartmoor, as the Dartmoor Commons Act, which gives the Park Authority the power to make bylaws, does not allow for camping without a landowner’s consent.

Dartmoor National Park however, have defended the public’s right to enjoy wild camping as it is a right that has been enjoyed for many years.  Section 10 of the Dartmoor Commons Act gives the public right to access the moor for the purposes of ‘outdoor recreation’ which the Park believes includes responsible, wild camping, following the leave no trace principles.

The British Mountaineering Council, Ramblers and Open Space Society support the continuation of the long-established precedent of public access for wild camping across the Dartmoor Commons. Any loss of access would be a significant retrograde step and we are grateful to Dartmoor National Park Authority for their efforts in opposing the legal challenge made against them and will continue to support them in defending the right to wild camp. 

READ MORE: Law of trespass could change

The benefits of wild camping are almost as extensive and varied as the users that undertake it. Not only does it encourage a sense of self-reliance in a wild place, but it also instils a genuine care for Dartmoor through an immersive experience in the landscape, boosts health and wellbeing, provides an accessible adventurous experience regardless of background, gives a sense of tranquillity hard to find elsewhere, and many more besides.

The concern remains that if the landowner was to be successful, other owners would follow suit and the decision could put an end to permitted wild camping across the area – something unique in the UK south of the Scottish border.

The BMC will continue to support the National Park in their efforts to fight this case.  The National Parks exist to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities, and as wild camping is a form of outdoor recreation which promotes that, section 10 of the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 should be interpreted as authorising that activity.

WATCH: Expert wild camping tips to #RespectTheWild on BMC TV



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Anonymous User
17/07/2022
I live just inside Dartmoor national park near Tavistock. When out on our morning walk at 6.45am today we came across a car that had driven off the road by about 20 metres and parked across a footpath. They also had awnings and windbreaks etc and a pile of stones where there had obviously been a fire last evening. I have no objection to legitimate wild camping for genuine backpackers but this was beyond any consideration for others or stock and wildlife and definitely against the byelaws. I rang a ranger and left a message and am hoping when I return later

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