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Wild camping
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Bad news: it’s now illegal to wild camp anywhere in England and Wales

The right to pitch your tent in Dartmoor has been overturned following a court case

Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Chiara Wilkinson

Dartmoor was previously the only place in England and Wales where you were legally allowed to camp without needing to seek permission from the landowner. You could rock up, pitch your tent and sleep peacefully under the stars – much like you can do in Scotland.

But that has all changed today. The right to wild camp on Dartmoor has officially been overturned after a court case made by a wealthy landowner.

RECOMMENDED: Meet the trespassers fighting for our right to roam

There had previously been an assumed right to wild camp under local law. Backpackers had to follow a code of conduct: leaving no trace, promising no fires or BBQs and staying for a maximum of two nights.

Alexander Darwall, a hedge fund manager and Dartmoor’s sixth-largest landowner (with a 4,000-acre estate), brought the case against the national park, arguing that the right to wild camp on the moors never existed.

In December, Darwall’s lawyers argued that a byelaw in the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 which enshrined a historic custom of open access ‘to all the commons on foot and on horseback for the purposes of open-air recreation’ excluded wild camping. Now the judge has agreed.

Campaigners have said they were willing to crowdfund to appeal the decision, and that the minority would continue to camp anyway, even if it was outlawed.

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