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After the two day hearing, the judge, Sir Julian Flaux, Chancellor of the High Court, concluded that the act did 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.’
The Darwalls are Dartmoor’s sixth-largest landowners. From their 1,619-hectare estate he offers pheasant shoots, deerstalking and holiday rentals on his land.
The Dartmoor National Park Authority had been fighting to maintain full access to the moor, arguing that a tradition of backpack camping on Dartmoor that had existed for decades and was included in the definition in section 10 of open-air recreation.
Chief Executive/National Park Officer for Dartmoor National Park Authority, Dr Kevin Bishop said: ‘We are really disappointed with the outcome but obviously respect the judgment.’
We should be increasing, not impairing people’s ability to spend time in nature
The Darwall’s case is first appeal that has been made in the 36 years of the bylaws being in place and puts important introductory outdoor events such as the Ten Tors and Duke of Edinburgh award expeditions into jeopardy.
Lewis Winks from The Stars are for Everyone campaign, which is fighting for the right to wild camp on the moor, said: ‘To lose this right at a time when nature connectedness in Britain is the lowest across the whole of Europe is a travesty. We should be increasing, not impairing people’s ability to spend time in nature.
‘We pledge to continue to fight for access to wild places, and for future generations to be able to sleep under the night sky; to have experiences which echo through lives.’
For many of us, wild camping is a cornerstone of spending time in the outdoors, be that hiking, biking or just enjoying our wild spaces, and those experiences can prove to be transformative.
Have you spent time wild camping on Dartmoor, perhaps as part of the Ten Tors of Duke of Edinburgh, or as part of your own escape or adventure? If so, we’d love to hear about it and your thoughts on this ruling in the comments below.
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