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OPINION: Dartmoor Camping - Serfdom is back, and the future of the Ten Tors challenge at risk

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Following last week's ruling that there is no right to camp on Dartmoor, there are concerns about the possible impact on the Ten Tors, an event that has inspired thousands of young people. Denying future generations the freedom to camp in the only significant wild land in southern England would be heartbreaking, says Fliss Freeborn, a former Ten Tors participant herself.

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In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

As George Monbiot notes, this case sums up the problems in UK politics. The local Tory MP gets bribes (er, I mean donations) from the Duvall estate who have brought this action. That local Tory MP refuses to criticise the decision becauise of those bribes (whoops again - donations).

I suspect there will be plenty of wild camping on Dartmoor despite this ruling, because who the hell is going to enforce it? I can't see an overstretched police force being particularly bothered about campers, or having the resources to do anything about it.

There's a mass gathering this coming weekend for anyone at a loose end who wants to cause a hullaballoo.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/raise-old-crockern-to-defend-dartmoor-tickets-514716339427

 nick everett 17 Jan 2023

Great article, thanks.  Goes much wider than just Ten Tors of course.  Multiple nights camping wild on the Moor for teenage D of E training and full expeditions taught me even more about myself and coping outdoors than you've listed, Fliss.

 Derry 18 Jan 2023
In reply to Frank the Husky:

> As George Monbiot notes, this case sums up the problems in UK politics. The local Tory MP gets bribes (er, I mean donations) from the Duvall estate who have brought this action. That local Tory MP refuses to criticise the decision becauise of those bribes (whoops again - donations).

> I suspect there will be plenty of wild camping on Dartmoor despite this ruling, because who the hell is going to enforce it? I can't see an overstretched police force being particularly bothered about campers, or having the resources to do anything about it.

> There's a mass gathering this coming weekend for anyone at a loose end who wants to cause a hullaballoo.

I agree it wont have much effect on wild campers as such and I certainly have every intention of taking my young children on their annual 'expedition' to Dartmoor in the spring, but I fear this ruling will have a huge effect on schools/DofE groups who have to do things by the book. Everything boils down to insurance when planning adventurous activities, and surely they wont be insured to camp in a place where it has been ruled unlawful. Sure, there'll be the hard-nosed leaders who will still go out which is great, but most will have to plan for elsewhere, or sadly settle camping at a campsite. 

In reply to Derry:

I'm glad to hear you'll be wild camping and giving your kids valuable experiences. I'll still wild camp there on my way to and from Cornwall as I have done for years.

I hope the local hunt sab groups take this as a rallying cry to hinder the shoots Duvall hosts.

 Marek 18 Jan 2023
In reply to Frank the Husky:

> I suspect there will be plenty of wild camping on Dartmoor despite this ruling, because who the hell is going to enforce it? I can't see an overstretched police force being particularly bothered about campers, or having the resources to do anything about it.

Unless I've miss-read this, the police won't be 'bothered' because such camping won't be criminal matter. It's just trespass rather than 'aggravated trespass'. It'll be up to the landowner (or his authorised representative) to request the campers to leave. Same as in the rest of England.

 Wainers44 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Marek:

> Unless I've miss-read this, the police won't be 'bothered' because such camping won't be criminal matter. It's just trespass rather than 'aggravated trespass'. It'll be up to the landowner (or his authorised representative) to request the campers to leave. Same as in the rest of England.

Yep absolutely right. Apart from the point being missed completely that neither the organisers nor the participants (Schools, Scouts, Cadets etc etc) can be setting out to do something that breaks the law. 

Outcome? Wild campers carry on regardless, organised events, eg Ten Tors and DofE, nope. Stop.

That's OK though as encouraging the young to value and protect our wild places is pretty unimportant anyway. They should all learn to shoot pheasants instead.

 Marek 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Wainers44:

> Yep absolutely right. Apart from the point being missed completely that neither the organisers nor the participants (Schools, Scouts, Cadets etc etc) can be setting out to do something that breaks the law. 

Well they wouldn't be breaking the law, so perhaps it's an opportunity to teach people about what 'trespass' actually means. That won't happen of course, but misinformation like "trespassing breaks the law" doesn't help either. 

> Outcome? Wild campers carry on regardless, organised events, eg Ten Tors and DofE, nope. Stop.

Sadly I suspect you're right about that.

 Wainers44 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Marek:

> Well they wouldn't be breaking the law, so perhaps it's an opportunity to teach people about what 'trespass' actually means. That won't happen of course, but misinformation like "trespassing breaks the law" doesn't help either. 

OK, I missed out the clarification of not wishing to move a dozen tired kids who have just walked 20 miles and been told to move on....which then is the law breaking act as I understand it. It's rather academic though as the outcome will be the loss of opportunity for the youngsters.

 Tony the Blade 19 Jan 2023
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Let's share this petition far and wide. We need 100,000 signatures as quick as possible.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/631241

 john arran 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Tony the Blade:

> Let's share this petition far and wide. We need 100,000 signatures as quick as possible.

"... landowners, who we believe should not really be allowed to own land within national parks."

That's a fine example of how to ruin what should have been a petition with achievable objectives.

 Tony the Blade 19 Jan 2023
In reply to john arran:

I agree with you, my wife and I just said the same. However, it's the only petition going as far as I can see so I've signed it. If there are others then it weakens the clout I think. 

 Howard J 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Marek:

> It'll be up to the landowner (or his authorised representative) to request the campers to leave. Same as in the rest of England.

In this case, since the landowner was willing to spend what will undoubtedly have been a substantial sum on bringing this court case, it seems highly possible that they will now be rigorous in enforcing it.  It really depends on what they saw as the main problem.  If it was having to clear up mess left by roadside campers then they might not be too bothered about remote leave-no-trace campers.  If it is protect their shooting rights then they may want to stop everyone.

At least one estate has apparently been using thermal imaging cameras to find and evict wild campers:

https://outdoorsmagic.com/article/news-wild-campers-caught-by-thermal-imaging-cameras/

 abr1966 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Tony the Blade:

Signed....thanks for sharing

 Howard J 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Marek:

> misinformation like "trespassing breaks the law" doesn't help either. 

How is that "misinformation"?.  Like it or not, trespass is unlawful.  It is a breach of civil law rather than criminal (except in very limited circumstances), but it is law nonetheless, which is why a court was able to rule on it.

Wainers44 is correct that no reputable organisation can be seen to run events which intentionally involve unlawful activities, so unless the landowner can be persuaded to give permission then many of these are indeed now in jeopardy, at least to the extent that they involve wild camping.  It remains to be seen what the landowner's attitude will be towards these but I think we are right to be pessimistic.

 deepsoup 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Howard J:

That's the same estate as these absolute charmers:
https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/couple-confronted-by-masked-men-in-camouflage-who-refused-to-let-them-leave-sheffield-beauty-spot-102078

From your link:
"The man, who appeared to be an estate worker, is said to have then instructed the camper that he could “use reasonable force” to escort him off the land."

This is something I've been wondering about in this case.  Is that true? 

It's access land.  So, they find you camping, tell you that you don't have permission to camp and you say, oh, sorry, didn't realise and strike your tent.  Then what?  You don't have the right to camp there, but you're not camping any more and you do have the right to be there.

Having been woken up and struck camp you're still entitled to walk, sit, watch the wildlife and generally quietly enjoy the countryside, day or night.  Can they play the GOML card and insist that you leave, let alone use force to make you leave?  On what grounds?

The judgement in this case specifically mentions that you may presume that you have the landowner's permission to camp in a remote place until and unless you know otherwise, so long as you're prepared to move on if asked. 

Move on as in leave the area?  Why?  Can they ask you to do leave if they find you lying on the ground, wide awake, looking at the stars?  I think not, so I guess what the judge meant was that you'd have to leave their land in order to pitch your tent and continue to camp for the rest of the night.

Post edited at 10:30
 Tony the Blade 19 Jan 2023
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Statement from Dartmoor NP: Agreement reached following wild camping discussions

Agreement has been reached that will enable people to continue wild camping in parts of Dartmoor National Park.

Landowners and the National Park Authority have worked together to agree a way forward following the High Court judgment published on Friday.

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

Agreement was reached in principle on the following:

• 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 where 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.

Anyone planning to wild camp now or in the future must refer to the interactive map and follow all ‘leave no trace’ principles.

Whilst the agreement is completed, wild camping (including Ten Tors and The Duke of Edinburgh Award) is permitted with immediate effect.

John Howell, Chair of Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association, 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 Dartmoor National Park Authority, 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.”

All present at the meeting were clear that there is no place for illegal fly camping on Dartmoor. ‘Fly camping’, which often involves large groups with barbecues or open fires, should not be confused with true wild camping and will continue to be prohibited.

 abr1966 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Tony the Blade:

Excellent and a great effort from all involved....

In reply to Howard J:

I have wondered if it'll be a bit more that he will actually allow it but charge to do so?

In reply to Tony the Blade:

This sounds good though I assume it excludes this guy's land which isn't massive.

It would be great if something like this could be done in the Lakes, Dales and Snowdonia, while the present "it's not allowed but be subtle" works OKish I do prefer being on the right side of the law and of landowners.  I wonder could the National Trust be talked around, as major landowner in these areas?

Perhaps less so the Peak, as most of it just seems a bit too populated for wild camping, other than maybe the likes of the middle of Kinder which is a bit like a mini Dartmoor.

In reply to Marek:

> Well they wouldn't be breaking the law, so perhaps it's an opportunity to teach people about what 'trespass' actually means. That won't happen of course, but misinformation like "trespassing breaks the law" doesn't help either. 

Sadly, I think it's no longer quite as simple as that.  It seems 'Aggravated trespass' can include just about anything other than just walking, and perhaps even that if the walk involves multiple people and is prearranged. 

I'm just reading this, which I'd highly recommend to anyone seriously interested in this.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/aug/10/the-book-of-trespass-by-nick-hayes-review-a-trespassers-radical-manifesto

 Howard J 19 Jan 2023
In reply to deepsoup:

> Having been woken up and struck camp you're still entitled to walk, sit, watch the wildlife and generally quietly enjoy the countryside, day or night.  Can they play the GOML card and insist that you leave, let alone use force to make you leave?  On what grounds?

Unless other restrictions apply, it seems to me that you should still be able to exercise your permitted access rights under CRoW. These are walking, running, watching wildlife and climbing, so stargazing might be stretching a point.

I think my approach in this situation would be to cooperate and pack up my camp. I would then politely inform the person that I now intend to exercise my right of access under CRoW.  They are allowed to use reasonable force to remove a trespasser, but I would point out that if I have access rights under CRoW I am no longer a trespasser, and if they were to attempt to use force they could be convicted of assault. Even if I were a trespasser, what force is "reasonable" is very difficult to determine and would be for a court to decide, and again the estate worker would risk a possible conviction for assault. Do they like their employer enough to want to risk that? I hope that would at least put sufficient doubt in their minds.

 Howard J 19 Jan 2023
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> It seems 'Aggravated trespass' can include just about anything other than just walking, and perhaps even that if the walk involves multiple people and is prearranged. 

No, aggravated trespass is quite specific:

A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land in the open air and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or are about to engage in on that or adjoining land in the open air, does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect—

(a) of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or any of them from engaging in that activity,

(b) of obstructing that activity, or

(c) of disrupting that activity.

There has to be more than the simple act of trespass, even in numbers. You also have to interfere with a lawful activity through intimidation, obstruction or disruption. 

In reply to Howard J:

> There has to be more than the simple act of trespass, even in numbers. You also have to interfere with a lawful activity through intimidation, obstruction or disruption. 

I think the point is that all those terms are open to fairly broad interpretation.

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

in the context of the petition, what’s the definition of a ‘landowner’ in the context of a national park. Is it big estates, farmers, business owners, homeowners on a plot of land? I’m genuinely interested to see if there is a definition?

In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

> in the context of the petition, what’s the definition of a ‘landowner’ in the context of a national park. Is it big estates, farmers, business owners, homeowners on a plot of land? I’m genuinely interested to see if there is a definition?

I think it's just badly thought out, with the misconception that most of a National Park is publicly owned.

 Howard J 19 Jan 2023
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

Like a lot of these partitions, this one is poorly considered and is addressing the wrong issue.  Land ownership is a red herring.

A national park in the UK is really just a category for the purposes of town and country planning. It provides a slightly higher level of protection against unsuitable development.  Unlike some other countries, it has nothing to do with land ownership and certainly does not mean that the land is publicly-owned - quite the opposite.

Taking all the land in national parks into public ownership would dispossess tens of thousands of people who live and work in them, and since they would have to be compensated at market value would cost billions of pounds of public money.  Even if only open countryside were to be nationalised it would still cost huge sums. 

It is not necessary for land to be in public ownership for there to be rights of access over it (eg CRoW and public rights of way, and in Scotland the right to roam), and conversely there are large swathes of publicly-owned land from which the public are excluded.

What we need is wider rights of access, which could be achieved by a simple change in the law although this is unlikely to happen.

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In reply to Howard J:

I > What we need is wider rights of access, which could be achieved by a simple change in the law although this is unlikely to happen.

I think there is a realistic chance of this happening after the next general election, if we keep up the pressure. If nothing else, this court case has brought the whole issue of access to the countryside and wild camping into the public’s awareness. Questions are being asked in the House of Commons, it’s becoming a political issue and labour politicians are making sympathetic noises. 

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