Organisers behind the Right to Roam rally argue camping provides inspiration and a connection to the natural world.
Campaigners are continuing to protest against a landowner’s attempts to outlaw sleeping under the stars on Dartmoor. Having gathered for a rally in Princetown over the weekend, they will gather outside the Royal Courts of Justice today.
It is ahead of a legal case which is being held at the court this week. Organisers behind the Right to Roam rally argue camping provides inspiration and a connection to the natural world.
Dartmoor is currently the only place in England and Wales where it is legal to wild camp in designated areas without the landowners’ permission. But Alexander Darwall, a hedge fund manager and Dartmoor’s sixth largest landowner, who owns the 4,000 acre Blachford Estate on southern Dartmoor, is seeking to remove the public’s right to responsibly wild camp on sections of the moor, which has been permitted since 1985.
Large parts of the moor are open to wild camping, which involves spending just one or two nights under canvas, carrying everything you need in a backpack and leaving no trace. But Mr Darwall is challenging whether the National Park has the authority to allow this on private land.
Papers lodged by the Darwalls’ lawyers claim the right of access granted by the Dartmoor Commons Act “does not include a right of wild camping”. He said he is not seeking to end wild camping but that the “need for landowner permission to wild camp is a vital safeguard”.
At the weekend, between 300-400 people showed up carrying banners and placards at Princetown to protest against the Darwall’s The rally was to raise awareness of the upcoming court case – and if the claims are backed up by a Judge, it could throw into doubt popular overnight events such as Ten Tors and the Duke of Edinburgh’s award.
Becca Trebilcock, one of the main organisers of the event said: “It was a very emotional day, so many wonderful people came out to show their support of the right hike and Wildcamp.”
Tom Sigler, another organiser said: “This is such an important issue for so many, there was such a great turn out.” Mark Hayhurst, the other organiser said: “We want to thank everyone who came along, and those who raised awareness online.”
Darwall’s lawyers, in papers filed earlier this year, assert that the right of access granted by the Dartmoor Commons Act does not include a right of wild camping. They argue that members of the public are not entitled … to pitch tents or otherwise occupy Stall Moor overnight … except with the claimant’s consent.
A spokesperson for the Dartmoor National Park Authority had previously said: “One of the unique features of Dartmoor National Park is the public’s right to enjoy wild camping on some of the registered commons, as a form of open-air recreation.
“Stall Moor on Dartmoor is registered common land and one of the areas where you can wild camp. A right that has been enjoyed for many years. The owners of Stall Moor have issued a claim in the High Court for a “declaration” that section 10 of the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 Act does not authorise wild camping, but only recreation “on the move”.
“The National Park Authority is defending this claim. Section 10 of the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 grants the public “a right of access” to the commons “on foot and on horseback for the purpose of open-air recreation”. The Act also gave the National Park Authority the right to make byelaws to control recreation on the commons.
“National Parks exist to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities. Wild camping is a form of outdoor recreation which promotes that, and section 10 should be interpreted as authorising that activity.”