Wild camping could soon be legal on Dartmoor again – but with limits

Tent pitched on Dartmoor
(Image credit: Getty)

Wild camping on Dartmoor could soon be legal again, after the national park authority agreed to pay landowners who offer their land for public use. However, there will be limits, and you won't be able to pitch your tent just anywhere.

Until recently, Dartmoor was the only place in England and Wales where wild camping was legal (see our full guide to wild camping). However, earlier this month a wealthy landowner won a long-running battle against Dartmoor National Park Authority, and a judge ruled that the public have no right to pitch tents there.

The decision was condemned by outdoor enthusiasts and campaigners. “At a time when the mental health benefits of time spent outside are widely recognised, and access to green spaces is literally being encouraged by the NHS and prescribed by doctors, this is a massive backwards step," Pat Kinsella, resident of Devon and author of the book Devon: 40 Coast and Country Walks told Advnture.

An unhappy compromise

Now, according to The Guardian, the authority has reached an agreement with some landowners, who will be paid in exchange for making their land available for wild camping.

A map on the park's website will show which areas are currently open. There are no plans to charge campers a fee. Instead, the money will be paid by the authority,

"There will be a transfer of money between the authority and the landowners," Kevin Bishop, CEO of Dartmoor National Park Authority, told the Guardian.

Now we're expected to be grateful to landowners who grant us permission to wild camp

Guy Shrubsole, Right to Roam

"It could be as little as a pound but it could be much more, we don’t know yet. Individual wild campers would not have to pay, you wouldn’t have to take your credit card on a wild camping trip, but you would know from the map that would be on our website that you could camp there and the landowner had granted authority."

However, camping campaigners aren't happy with the compromise, which will let landowners withdraw permission to camp at will, and doesn't enshrine the right to wild camp in law.

"The public have just had their right to wild camp summarily snatched from them by a wealthy landowner," said Guy Shrubsole from Right to Roam. "Now we’re expected to be grateful to landowners who grant us permission to wild camp, and pay for the privilege."

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.