A threat to public access on Dartmoor Commons

We support Dartmoor National Park in defending the right to wild camp.

18 October 2022

A large landowner is taking legal action against the right to wild camp in Dartmoor. We support the National Park in its efforts to fight this case and defend public access for wild camping in Dartmoor. 

At a time when the government is threatening a “bonfire of regulations”, we take any attempts to extinguish long-held rights of access very seriously. This legal case, if the landowner won, would create a precedent that effectively ends the right to wild camp in Dartmoor, removing common rights that have stood for many years.  

Access to nature is vital, and we need to make it easy for everyone to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This legal case could be the thin end of the wedge when it comes to our public access rights and must be defeated.   

The case seeking to end wild camping in Dartmoor  

Dartmoor is the only place in England and Wales where it is legal to wild camp in designated areas without landowner permission. Whilst all of the land in Dartmoor National Park is in private hands, a large area has historically been common land. Public access has been a feature of the area for centuries, and wild camping in the area has been recorded as far back as 1900.  

These rights were formalised in the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985, which gave the public the legal right to access the moor for the purposes of ‘outdoor recreation’, which the National Park Authority believes includes camping. The owner of the 4,000-acre estate, which covers 2,784 acres of common land on Stall Moor, is looking for a legal ruling that wild camping is not covered by the Act.  

We support the National Park Authority 

The British Mountaineering Council, the Ramblers and Open Spaces 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. 

We’ll continue to support the National Park Authority in defending the right to wild camp and we will continue our fight to keep the countryside open to all. 

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