THE agreement that allows people to wild camp on parts of Dartmoor has been labelled unsustainable.
A High Court ruling in January, brought by Alexander Darwall of the Blachford Estate, removed the right to wild camp – also known as backpack camping – on the moor after pressure from one of the landowners, but Dartmoor National Park quickly found a compromise.
It has meant changes in the areas available for camping and further changes are expected.
Furthermore, the national park will pay landowners to allow camping for three years, although the landowners can opt out any time in the first 12 months.
Despite that agreement, a fundraising page towards an appeal against the ban of free wild camping has raised more than £36,000.
It is supported by Torridge Council’s Cllr Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin (Liberal Democrat, Great Torrington) who successfully urged many of her fellow councillors to back an appeal last month and is concerned about the agreement currently in place.
‘There’s a huge difference between a right and a permissive agreement,’ she said. ‘It’s my understanding that landowners are now being paid to allow wild camping and I just don’t see how this is sustainable. Where is this money going to come from?
‘An agreement can be revoked at any time and I’m worried that without the reinstatement of the right to wild camp on Dartmoor, the area allowing camping will slowly dwindle away and future generations will be affected forever.
‘It’s the youth groups and school groups that I’m really worried about. I want my children and hopefully future grandchildren to have the same opportunities that I had and to be able to camp freely on the moor.
‘It teaches so many invaluable life skills and the Ten Tors event is something we cannot risk losing.’
The Dartmoor Preservation Association warns that the national park’s agreement with landowners is only a temporary solution, It wants to see a return of the right to wild camp.
‘We were pleased with the speed at which Dartmoor National Park Authority acted to ensure an agreement with landowners in the wake of the ruling, it was important to do so as to ensure that access to backpack camping didn’t disappear completely,’ said a spokesperson.
‘This has, for now, retained a reduced map for backpack campers and secured the future of organised events such as Ten Tors and DofE, which are so vital for providing young people the opportunity to experience and fall in love with Dartmoor, as many have before them.
‘However, this solution only works as an interim measure. We see an appeal as the only true way to ensure that backpack camping in its truest form is allowed to continue.
‘Rights-based access and permissive access are two completely different things. The right to backpack camp in the national park should be inalienable, not subject to the changing whims of landowners.
‘That is why we are acting as the official focus for donations to help the DNPA fund an appeal.’
The Blachford Estate have not responded to a request to comment.
Further information about areas in which wild camping is still permitted by landowners are at https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/about-us/about-us-maps/camping-map