Dartmoor wild camping ban overturned

Dartmoor wild camping

The public can ‘wild camp’ in Dartmoor once again without landowners’ permission after the National Park Authority won an appeal case.

A decades-old which gives the right to do so was challenged was challenged by a local landowner earlier this year.

Dartmoor will now return as the only place in England where wild camping is allowed for ‘backpack campers’ without permission.

Open Spaces Society, which also brought the appeal said it “was delighted”.

At the centre of this case was whether wild camping can be considered open-air recreation, which is allowed in the Park under the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985.

Local landowners, Alexander Darwall, a hedge fund manager, and his wife Diana – who have owned a 4,000 acre (16-km sq) estate in southern Dartmoor since 2013 – argued that it did not and wanted to revoke permission to their land for camping.

The National Park Authority and the UK’s oldest conservation charity, the Open Spaces Society (OSS) brought an appeal this month against that decision.

In the summary judgement, confirming victory for the charities, Lord Justice Underhill said that wild camping “plainly fell” within the definition of open air recreation as many people “took pleasure in the experience of sleeping in a tent in open country”.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society said: “This is an excellent outcome, we are relieved that the judges ruled unanimously and conclusively that open-air recreation includes backpack camping on the commons.”

Kevin Bishop, chief executive for Dartmoor National Park Authority, said: “[the judgement] means people can experience the joys of backpack camping on Dartmoor, provided everyone follows the ‘leave no trace’ principle.”

The right to wild camp in Dartmoor does not apply to overnight stays in vehicles, campervans or motorhomes.

Guy Shrubsole, co-founder of campaign group Right to Roam, said this was not the end of the fight for land rights.

He called for a new Right to Roam Act for England so that wild camping can be extended beyond Dartmoor.

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