By: Blonde Two

A review of Dartmoor byelaws (previously adopted in 1989) goes to public consultation today, and you can be sure there will be much public discussion on the topic.

As always with public debate, it’s easy to send or receive inaccurate information. There have already been some misleading headlines in the press, so we thought we’d take a look through the proposed changes to the Dartmoor bylaws and help you understand how they might affect your favourite outdoor activities. It’s worth saying here that you can look at the proposed new byelaws yourself. We recommend that you do so. This is your opportunity to make a comment.

If you find legal lingo a tad wordy, we’ve done a bit of summarising for you. If you enjoy wild camping on Dartmoor, dog walking on Dartmoor or even cycling on Dartmoor read on, we have the answers to some of your questions.

 

Please don’t worry, your favourite Dartmoor activities are still very welcome but you may find a few changes in how and where they can happen.

Will I still be able to wild camp on Dartmoor?

Since the start of the pandemic, and for some locations before that, wild camping in the UK has become a contentious term. So-called fly camping (we think that one’s a bit judgemental) has caused damage to much-loved spaces, and upset in our rural communities.

It’s perhaps time for us all to reconsider our wild camping ideas.

You’ll be pleased to hear that ‘traditional’ backpack camping, where a small tent is used, in a remote out-of-sight location, for a short period of time would still be permitted under the new 2021 Dartmoor byelaw changes. There are however a few specific written changes you might want to note:

New wild camping requirements

  • Single person or two-person bivouacs or tents only
  • Groups of no more than six people
  • No hammocks, tarps etc to be hung from trees

Existing wild camping requirements that will remain include:

  • No more than two consecutive nights in the same location
  • Camping only in the areas shown on the Dartmoor camping map (see below for details)
  • No lighting of fires or causing fires (‘tending’ fires is now also excluded but the careful use of camping stoves is allowed)

Proposed new Dartmoor wild camping map online

 

Will I be able to sleep in a campervan or motorhome on Dartmoor?

We’ve answered your questions about motorhomes and camper vans on Dartmoor before. The short answer to the question above is ‘no’ but this hasn’t changed.

The wording of the new bylaw is however more specific, and now covers ‘occupying’ a vehicle or caravan or trailer between 9:00pm and 9:00am.

Will I still be able to run a DofE expedition or undertake Ten Tors Training on Dartmoor?

This is a really interesting one because some (not all) expedition work, particularly Gold DofE and Ten Tors training, traditionally includes wild camping.

If you’ve ever organised outdoor expeditions with young people, you’ll know that they are one of the very best ways encourage helpful and environment-nurturing behaviour. You’ll also know that camping in small groups of six, or in one or two-person tents isn’t always practical.

It remains to be seen how this one will progress. There’s an interesting example from the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority who have a group permit application process for their managed wild camping areas. The form is detailed, and asks for information such as grid references and toilet arrangements.

Those of you familiar with DofE green forms for wild country areas will know about both the recent changes with these, and the impact of paperwork on expedition leaders. A continuing debate that is perhaps pertinent to these revised Dartmoor byelaws.

Will I still be able to barbecue on Dartmoor?

Because of fire risk, environmental damage, and litter, we would always actively discourage people from using barbecues on Dartmoor (unless you’re at an official campsite) but they haven’t been excluded under the proposed new byelaws. There are however a couple of key times and ways in which barbecues will not be permitted:

  • In a manner to cause fire
  • When the Fire Severity index is high

Gathering of any material to use as fuel for any fire, the use of fireworks, and Chinese lanterns will also not be permitted.

Will I still be able to walk my dog on Dartmoor?

We all know the importance of keeping dogs under control around wildlife (particularly ground nesting birds) and livestock but sadly most of us have also seen examples of when this has not happened. The new Dartmoor bylaws are more specific on this topic than the previous ones.

  • Between March 1st and July 31st all dogs will have to be kept on a short lead (two metres maximum)
  • Each dog walker will be allowed to exercise no more than six dogs at a time

Will I still be able to cycle on Dartmoor?

Cycling on Dartmoor is popular for very good reason, and still welcome on public BOATs and bridleways. We have plenty of those and the Dartmoor National Park Authority has some really helpful information about Dartmoor cycling that will help you find them.

Cycling across open moorland or common land is not allowed either under the existing or new Dartmoor bylaws.

What else do I need to know about the new Dartmoor byelaws?

The most important thing to note at this stage is that you currently have the opportunity to have your say about the proposed changes to the Dartmoor bylaws. We obviously recommend you read the proposal through for yourself. As you do so you’ll probably notice some existing bylaws you didn’t previously know about. Almost all of which won’t have stopped you enjoying Dartmoor National Park in the past.

The right to roam debate

It’s as important as ever to make sure we all do our best to protect our precious environments. Balancing rules intended to help people do so against the right to roam debate is going to be tricky as we move into the future.

This public consultation on the Dartmoor National Park byelaw changes is your opportunity to have a say on how that happens.

One thing you can be sure of is that lots of people are going to have plenty to say!

My advice on this one would be to go to the experts. And I don’t mean us, I mean the Dartmoor National Park Authority website.