I think we can all agree that these last few months has been somewhat overwhelming in regards to the ongoing Dartmoor National Park Wild Camping situation. Unsure what we are talking about? Check out our original blog here to catch up.
From court ruling, protests, online petitions and new systems being introduced - it's hard to gage exactly what's going on and what the future of Wild Camping holds in store for all of us. In this blog, we'll do our best to document the situation and shed some light.
As most of you will know, late in 2022, our access to the wild spaces we love came under threat from wealthy landowner, Alexander Darwall, the sixth-largest landowner on Dartmoor. Alexander Darwall had predominantly taken to the courts to query the Dartmoor Commons Act of 1985 - more specially, the assumed right to wild camp in the whole national park. He argued that he was unable to order individual campers off his land and that this right did not exist.
This was big news amongst the wild campers and roamers. Why? Well, as mentioned, Darwall is the sixth largest landowner on Dartmoor and if this case won in his favour it could cause a ripple effect encouraging following landowners to follow suite. Again, early days, but the news was certainly alarming.
Once this information had come to light, roamers, lovers of the outdoors and wild campers alike banded together. It was truly inspiring and heart warming seeing people come together and stand up for what they believe in, rallies were held, notably in Princetown and London.
Rory was fortunate to be asked to speak at the Princetown event, he talked about our community here and how important access to the wild spaces we love is to the people of Princetown and Dartmoor as a whole. He talked about our rights to experience those places and along with that, our responsibilities to protect them.
Following that there was an organised protest hike across the moors which started on our doorstep. We enjoyed the company of like minded individuals along the route and got to talk about the issues at hand and how it could affect us and future generations.
Through these interactions we found certain individuals, campaigners and social media influencers were key in raising awareness and shedding light on the situation, we'd recommend looking them up for additional and ongoing information.
• Right 2 Roam; a formation of campaigners made up of ramblers, activists and explorers.
• The Stars Are For Everyone; An IG page dedicated to spreading awareness and events.
• Muddy_Bootlaces, otherwise known as Beca, an activist who shares her own personal stories and key in the discussions in the community.
In general, it was truly amazing to see people showcasing their love for the wild spaces and collectively standing together to say no 🙌
THE COURT VERDIT
Sadly, on the 13th of January 2023, the court case provided us with a tragic outcome - the case was won in the favour of Darwall. In the high court, Timothy Morshead KC, Darwall's representative stated that allowing people to camp without a landowner’s consent would be a “deprivation of the ability to decide who should and should not camp on one’s land” and added that those camping have caused nuisance and litter."
Sir Julian Flaux, the chancellor of the high court, ruled that Darwall’s lawyers were correct and that the right did not exist across Dartmoor. So from this date onwards, the ruling came into immediate effect.
“In my judgment, on the first issue set out at  above, the claimants are entitled to the declaration they seek that, on its true construction, section 10(1) of the 1985 Act does not confer on the public any right to pitch tents or otherwise make camp overnight on Dartmoor Commons. Any such camping requires the consent of the landowner.” - Sir Julian Flaux, the chancellor of the high court
The team here were saddened to hear the news, especially given that wild camping was deemed as non-recreational, but activities such as walking, horseback and picnicking are - go figure. So what was next? Well, from this point onwards, permission is now required from the landowner if you are looking to wild camp.
THE NEW PERMISSIVE SYSTEM
The detail has yet to be developed but in essence landowners would enter into a legal agreement with the National Park which would grant permission to the Authority to allow the public to wild camp on specified land. For these areas a member of the public wishing to wild camp would not have to seek the approval of the landowner as it would already have been granted via the agreement.
People wild camping will not be charged under this system. The new agreements will involve a payment to landowners by DNPA, but the amount has not yet been discussed in detail.
SO CAN YOU WILD CAMP?
The short answer is yes, yes you can. With the new Permissive System mentioned above, there are more areas of land which is now accessible. We can understand it's easy to read the headlines and get swooped up in the turmoil, but...
Wild Camping is definitely still around and accessible.
Sure, it has changed and there are some very 'grey' areas cropping up in discussions, but ultimately, activities such as Duke of Edinburgh and 10 Tors are still available to all. Here's a super insightful interactive map, which is consistently updated with where is possible to wild camp: