The Daily Telegraph
Wild campers hounded out of Dartmoor
Discarded litter and makeshift lavatories prompt plans to overhaul bylaws to protect the area
SHERLOCK HOLMES spent days camping on Dartmoor searching for the Hound of the Baskervilles – but if the legendary detective did the same today he may well fall foul of the authorities.
New rules propose to limit camps to small groups and to specific areas set out in published maps, as well as restricting the use of barbecues and reminding visitors not to spend more than two nights in one place.
The Devon moorland is one of the few places in England where wild camping is allowed without a landowner’s permission, but a 1985 bylaw is set to be changed after the area was inundated with anti-social visitors during the pandemic.
Rangers have said the “ethos” of this legislation, designed to offer access to backpackers with small tents on multiday hikes, has been lost amid a rising number of people arriving with lights, loud music and garden furniture to “party” for days on end.
Last summer groups arrived to camp near Bellever, close to the river Dart, leaving behind litter, makeshift lavatories and fire pits, prompting the National Park Authority to introduce emergency measures to ban camping in the area for several weeks in August.
A report published earlier this month said: “Members are aware of the damage to the fabric of the moor, to wildlife and to archaeology following large groups of people camping near Bellever last summer.
“Large frame tents, tables and chairs, lights, loud music contributed to a party atmosphere; we are seeing this at a smaller scale at a number of sites across Dartmoor. We need clarity in the wording of the bylaw to ensure that future wild camping on Dartmoor is within the original ethos of the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 which was to allow people to put on their backpacks and camp away from roads, buildings and other people in a remote location as part of a walking trip or expedition.”
Other national parks in England and Wales, such as the Lake District, Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia, only allow wild camping with a landowner’s permission, and Northern Ireland has similar rules.
Wild camping is allowed in Scotland, except for in some restricted areas.
Alison Kohler, director of conservation and communities for the National Park Authority, said: “We are doing this to ensure the bylaws are fit for purpose and help protect the national park for all to enjoy today and tomorrow.
“Updating the bylaws is an important topic for everyone who cares about Dartmoor whether it’s landowners, commoners, residents, businesses or visitors, and we recognise people will want to have a say.”
A draft set of bylaws will go out to public consultation next week and if the plans are approved they will be sent to central government for ratification.
Other proposed rules regulate pets after the moor saw a rise in professional dog-walkers and attacks on livestock.
Many of Britain’s most popular beauty spots have struggled to cope with a mass influx of visitors who have been forced to holiday in the UK due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pattern began last year but has continued this summer.