Tag: park authority

Historic wild camping tradition restricted on Dartmoor

  • By Claire Marshall
  • BBC Rural Affairs Correspondent

Image source, Thomas Faull

Image caption,

Dartmoor ponies – that have roamed freely over the land for centuries – are the symbol of the moor.

The owner of an estate on Dartmoor has won the right to remove people “wild” or backpack camping on his land.

The High Court ruling on Friday has been seen as a test case for countryside access.

Dartmoor was the only area of England and Wales where under a local law there had been an assumed right to wild camp without the landowner’s permission.

However a High Court judge ruled this was legally wrong and permission was needed.

The case had been brought by Alexander Darwall, a hedge fund manager, and his wife Diana, who have owned the 4,000 acres (16 sq km) on southern Dartmoor since 2013.

At a two-day hearing last December, lawyers for the Darwalls argued that a byelaw in the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 which enshrined a historic custom of open access “to all the commons on foot and on horseback for the purposes of open-air recreation”, excluded wild camping.

The judge, Sir Julian Flaux, Chancellor of the High Court, agreed. He said 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.”

If there were such a right, he said it would mean “the landowner would have suffered a loss of control or a usurpation of his rights over his own land.”

Mr Justice Flaux also said there was “no local custom of camping which has the force of law” and it was “apparent” that some wild campers on the Darwalls’ land did “cause problems in relation to livestock

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Landowners win legal challenge over Dartmoor wild camping

Two landowners have won a High Court challenge against the right to wild camp without permission on the Dartmoor National Park.

Farmers Alexander and Diana Darwall argued that some wild campers on their land caused problems to livestock and the environment and sought a court declaration that members of the public could only pitch tents there overnight with their consent.

The couple have lived at Blachford Manor in Devon since 2013 and their 3,450-acre estate in the southern part of Dartmoor covers land on the remote Stall Moor where they have a cattle herd.

The Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), which defended against their High Court claim, said the case was an “attack” on a “long-established practice of great importance”.

The dispute centred on the interpretation of a 1985 law that regulates access to the moorland, with Mr Darwall, a hedge fund manager, and his wife arguing that it was not intended to provide a right to wild camp.

In a ruling on Friday, a judge agreed and concluded that the Darwalls were entitled to a declaration that the legislation “does not confer on the public any right to pitch tents or otherwise make camp overnight on Dartmoor Commons”.

Sir Julian Flaux added: “Any such camping requires the consent of the landowner.”

The judge said his ruling would mean that “DNPA and all walkers and riders on the Commons know where they stand and what rights they have”.

Dr Kevin Bishop, chief executive of the DNPA, said it was “really disappointed” with the ruling and would be considering whether to appeal.

Dartmoor National Park, designated in 1951, covers a 368-square mile area that features “Commons” – areas of unenclosed privately-owned moorland where locals can put livestock.

The Darwalls had become concerned about the potential harm of wild camping on Commons

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A Landmark Case in England Could Spell Disaster for Backpackers

This article originally appeared on Backpacker

A court ruling that effectively struck down the right to backpack in England last week sent national park authorities in that country scrambling to come to a deal with landowners–and reignited a debate about who, if anyone, should be allowed to set limits on hikers’ “right to roam.”

Unlike in many countries, national parks in the United Kingdom are not public lands. Instead, they’re predominantly made up of a patchwork of private estates and often include towns and farms within their borders. In Scotland, a 2003 law codified hikers’ traditional right to access most uncultivated land, regardless of who owns it; in England and Wales, however, the situation is very different. A 2000 law and established paths mostly guarantee dayhikers’ access, but in the vast majority of national parks, spending the night outside of established campgrounds without landowner permission is prohibited. The exception was Dartmoor National Park, an expanse of rolling green moors, remnant forest, and stone-capped tors in England’s far southwest. There, under a 1985 law, backpackers have enjoyed an assumed right to wild camp in uncultivated areas based on historic custom.

In December, however, landowner and hedge fund manager Alexander Darwall filed a lawsuit arguing that the law did not protect the right to wild camp. On January 13, England’s High Court agreed, ruling that campers needed landowners’ permission for overnight stays in Dartmoor as well. The presiding judge, Sir Julian Flaux, said that there was “no local custom of camping which has the force of law.”

Wild Camping on Yar Tor at Dusk.  Dartmoor National Park

Darwall backpackers now need the landowner’s consent to camp. (Photo: James Osmond via Getty Images)

Since 2013, Darwall and his wife, Diana, have owned the park’s 4,000-acre Blachford Estate, where they raise cows, sheep, and deer and host pheasant and deer

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