The Dartmoor national park authority’s ‘agreement’ with landowners to allow wild camping to continue in parts of the park has been slammed by campaigners as a ‘stitch-up’.

According to a statement released by the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), the “landowners and the National Park Authority have worked together to agree a way forward” following the hotly-contested High Court judgment published on Friday, which removed the right to enjoy wild camping in Dartmoor.

Main image: Mark Hayhurst and Beca Jayne

But the Right to Roam described the agreement as a ‘stitch-up’, saying: “The head of DNPA, Kevin Bishop, has told us personally that people will have to pay to wild camp on Dartmoor under this stitched-up deal.

“This is a ransom note from landowners who will be able to revoke permission to camp at any time.

“As there is no map of where wild camping would be ‘permitted’ under this plan, we don’t yet know how many landowners have refused permission.

“The public have just had their right to wild camp summarily snatched from them by a wealthy landowner – now we’re expected to be grateful to landowners who grant us permission to wild camp, and pay for the privilege.

“We will no accept any attempts to make people pay to wild camp, and call on MPs to back a new Right to Roam act to defend and extend public access to nature.”

The sun rises over a perfect Dartmoor wild camp.

The sun rises over a perfect Dartmoor wild camp.
Credit: David Guest

The agreement

The criticism follows a meeting between the Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association and the National Park Authority yesterday (18 January 2023) to discuss how wild camping on the Dartmoor Commons might be facilitated going forward.

Today, they confirmed that an agreement was reached – in principle – and covers the following three points:

  • Landowners will grant permission to the Authority to allow the public to wild camp through a permissive agreement.
  • This new system will provide clear guidance on what constitutes wild camping based on the principle of ‘leave no trace’.
  • Areas on which the public can wild camp without seeking individual permission from landowners will be communicated via an interactive map on Dartmoor National Park Authority’s website in the coming days.

While the agreement is finalised, wild camping (including for Ten Tors and The Duke of Edinburgh Award participants) is permitted with immediate effect.

Phoebe wild camping on Darmoor. Photo: Phoebe Smith

Phoebe Smith wild camping on Darmoor. Photo: Phoebe Smith

The National Park Authority has requested that anyone planning to wild camp on Dartmoor moving forward must refer to the aforementioned interactive map and follow all ‘leave no trace’ principles.

Additionally, all those present at the meeting asserted that ‘there is no place for illegal fly camping on Dartmoor’ and this remains strictly prohibited. They also added that ‘fly camping’, which often involves large groups with barbecues or open fires, ‘should not be confused with true wild camping’.

John Howell, Chair of Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association – which includes representation from The Duchy of Cornwall –  said: “We recognise the importance of people being able to enjoy the natural beauty of Dartmoor, including through wild camping, and the benefits that this can bring.”

Dr Kevin Bishop, Chief Executive of DNPA, said: “We have all worked quickly and collectively to ensure clarity is provided. Our thanks go to those involved in the discussions who have engaged in this process so positively and proactively. We’re committed to working together to continue all our good work that helps keep Dartmoor special for everyone.”

Right to Roam is planning a protest march on Dartmoor this weekend (Saturday January 21) against the high court ruling.

The Great Outdoors has contacted DNPA for more information.

READ MORE: “Fighting is our only option”: outdoor enthusiasts react to Dartmoor ruling