On 13 January 2023, we all lost our right to wild camp on Dartmoor. The moor was the only location where wild camping was still legal in England. Hedge fund manager Alexander Darwall – who owns land on Dartmoor – won the case, arguing that the right to pitch tents on the moor didn’t actually exist in the first place.
There’s been much outcry in response to the ruling, with activists and nature lovers organising strategically. One week after the ruling, 3,000 people marched onto Darwall’s Dartmoor land in defiance, sparking one of biggest land rights protests in recent history.
Land owners’ concessions aren’t enough
Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) has said that it seeks to appeal the High Court decision. Meanwhile, it has secured a ‘permissive system‘ with some land owners, paying them to allow us to wild camp. The Dartmoor National Park website provides an interactive map showing the locations where we can still legally pitch a tent:
However, for those of us who care about land access in England, concessions from rich land owners aren’t good enough. These permissions are not forever-binding, and can easily be taken away. The amount of land shaded in purple on the above map might look very different today than it will in, say, ten years’ time.
The Stars Are For Everyone, a campaign group which has fought hard for our right to wild camp on Dartmoor, said:
They tried to sell us the idea of success but we called this out as a stitch up: already, we’ve lost around 15% of the previous area where we had a right to wild camp in the park.
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Now, what remains looks fragile and tenuous. Without a right to camp we rely solely on the goodwill of landowners who renew this permission on an annual basis with Dartmoor National Park Authority – they can withdraw this whenever they choose, and to rub it in, DNPA hand over public money to landowners in exchange for this stitch up deal.
Campaigners such as Beca (aka Muddy Bootlaces) have listed a number of ways you can fight back against the ruling:
- Donate to the official fundraiser for DNPA’s appeal.
- Write to your local MP asking them to discuss this issue in parliament and back a new Right to Roam bill. You can use Right To Roam’s handy template letter.
- Join one of the many events that are being arranged to gather funds. To stay in the loop, follow social media accounts such as @right.2roam, @thestarsareours.uk, @muddybootlaces, and @landscapesoffreedom. Share their posts on social media.
- You can also print off posters and flyers to spread the word.
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