Wild camping on Dartmoor. A privilege worth protecting. And a poem.

Update on Dartmoor wild camping – January 23rd 2023

The picture for wild camping on Dartmoor has changed following a well-publicised High Court decision. This is a developing and controversial situation. Thanks to efforts by the Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association and Dartmoor National Park Authority, there are currently some areas on Dartmoor where you are still permitted to backpack/wild camp. You can read the news release from Dartmoor National Park Authority here. Please find below a summary.
  • You can currently wild camp on a reduced area of Dartmoor
  • You can view the new Dartmoor wild camping map here
  • If you camp within this area, you don’t need to seek the landowner’s permission
  • If you camp within this area, you don’t need to make an individual payment
  • This is a permissive agreement, which means it can be removed
  • Which means it’s more important than ever to make sure you adopt a leave-no-trace approach
  • Large groups, barbecues and campfires on Dartmoor are still prohibited

Wild camping on Dartmoor

December 2022

‘For the purpose of outdoor recreation.’

Six small but supremely important words.

Six words that are part of s.10(1) of the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985.

Six words that have given generations freedom.

Six words that are being tested next week in the High Court.

Freedom is a big word.

Bigger than ‘access’ or ‘ownership’.

Perhaps you would like to meet a few of my people who have found freedom in wild camping on Dartmoor.

The teenage girl from Torbay who had never visited the moor.

The wheelchair user who wanted to rekindle her passion for adventure.

The team of four who had never camped.

The Scout who couldn’t sit still but lay and watched the stars for hours.

The hungry tired team who waited for me at each corner.

The gentle man who conquered fears in his own quiet way.

The teenage lad whose words, ‘I get Dartmoor now’ will always be with me.

But what about me?

What about what wild camping on Dartmoor has meant to me?

It has quite simply changed the course of my life.

It has both broken and mended me.

Shouting about something so much a part of me would seem wrong.

So I wrote a poem instead.


The mists up here don't swirl.

They hang and cover and seep.

And drape their dripping fingers,

As though earth has want to weep.

The paths up here don't lead.

They hint and trick and fade,

These broken granite sponge-ways,

Explorers long decayed.

The routes up here are guarded,

By post and pool and leat.

But man may not possess them,

His time up here is fleet.

My bed is where I place it

On slope, by wall, neath rock.

I lie here when the need comes,

I slumber to restock.

Generations lie here with me.

With countless more to come.

House dwellers seeking freedom,

To stare and sleep and roam.

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