Editor’s note: we are happy to publish unedited press releases for causes we support.
Information on the official fundraiser for the Dartmoor National Park Authority appeal on the backpack camping ban.
We are campaigning and fundraising to overturn the ban on backpack camping. We are the focus for public support to the National Park’s brave defence of access to the natural world.
Background. On 13 Jan 2023, the High Court ruled that backpack camping on Dartmoor was illegal without express landowner permission. This was the last enclave in England where rights-based camping existed and the proud shared heritage of thousands of people in the region. To many, the decision has undermined the ruggedness, the wildness and the freedom of Dartmoor that holds such a special place in their hearts. To many more across the country, the decision has reignited the issue of public access to nature at the loss of the last remaining area where it was still an embedded right to freely hike and backpack camp. Free access to nature is becoming increasingly important in a busy, modern, hyper-connected world. The positive effects on physical, mental and emotional health cannot be overstated.
Dartmoor fights back. On 27 Jan the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) bravely voted to appeal this decision and challenge this unfair judgment that would exclude many from the moor. The decision was unanimous, but the fight ahead will be difficult. With many cuts to National Park budgets, the DNPA have been locked into a ‘David and Goliath’ fight that they will need support with.
The DPA’s role. The Dartmoor Preservation Association is acting as the official focus for raising public funds for an appeal, with any excess being used to support projects that enable access to Dartmoor, especially for underprivileged groups who would normally struggle to get on the moor. There has been significant public interest in this issue, national outcry and mass rallies in Devon and London. The people-power behind this issue is what is holding it in the public consciousness and has encouraged the DNPA to continue with a legal appeal.
The Dartmoor Preservation Association have been keeping the moor wild and free for 140 years, this is a generationally important fight that goes to the heart of what a National Park is for. Our JustGiving page is available on our website at www.dartmoorpreservation.co.uk and on our social media.
Tom Usher, CEO:
“We are determined to support the National Park in its appeal, access to nature is a right, not something granted by permission. Leave-no-trace backpack camping is a wonderful experience. Events like Ten Tors and DofE [Duke of Edinburgh awards] establish a life-long love of adventure in young people that is being threatened by this ban”
“We fear this judgement is the beginning of a permission-based system on Dartmoor. It has set a precedent for permission being required of other activities in the future; put-ins for kayaks, commercial walking groups, climbing clubs, and the many other sole-trader businesses that ring the moor and rely on tourism and free access.”
“Backpack-camping has a long-established tradition on Dartmoor. The positive effect on mental and physical health from being outside in any of our National Parks cannot be overstated. Backpack-camping promotes self-reliance, planning, physical robustness, mental resilience, an adventurous mindset, and a deep respect for the natural world”
More information, including FAQs
The Dartmoor Preservation Association is backing Dartmoor National Park Authority in its appeal against a ban on backpack camping. We wish to see a rights-based not a permission-based system on Dartmoor.
How are we helping? We are acting as the focus for donations which we will intend to transfer these to the national park to offset the legal costs of an appeal. (The original case will have cost the National Park around £100,000 to give you an idea of scale).
How will the donations be used?
- We will use them to fund the National Park Authority’s appeal against the backpack camping ban.
- These funds will only be for future appeal costs not for costs of the original judgement in this case in Jan 23.
- Until the costs of the appeal are known we will hold these donations ringfenced. This could be until late 2023.
Our responsibilities with donations
- By donating via DPA you can be assured that we, as a long-standing registered charity, will act appropriately and clearly with the funds donated to us.
- We have a properly establish board of Trustees and permanent staff. We are regulated by the Charity Commission and answerable to HMRC, Companies House and our many members.
- Our legally binding constitution requires us to use our resources only on activities that benefit Dartmoor, specifically: Public Access and Conservation of archaeological sites, cultural heritage, and natural history.
- We will never use these donations to fund our own operating costs. All donations will go to support and appeal and other Dartmoor access benefits.
What if the appeal is unsuccessful?
- If the DNPA seek leave to appeal and are not given permission to appeal by the courts. We will use the excess funds as described below; to support public access projects on Dartmoor.
- If the DNPA appeal and lose the appeal- we will cover whatever their costs are up to the amount of the donated funds.
What will you do with any excess donations?
- If there are excess funds above the costs of an appeal then the DPA will use them to enable access activities on the Dartmoor aimed at youth groups and young people. Examples include:
- ‘Moor Boots’– a project to provide, for free, proper footwear and camping equipment to underprivileged children so they can take part in activities like DoE, Scouts and TenTors without the cost that would normally prevent them.
- Supporting (NUTS)- A project giving children time, funds, and resources to spend a day on a Dartmoor farm and a camping night out for the first time. Organised and led by the Dartmoor Community Engagement Rangers. ‘Nights Under the Stars’
- Year 7 discovery sessions– which gives pupils in Year 7 at the Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust time to explore and learn on Dartmoor to understand the environment they are growing up in.
- Supporting ‘Girls do Dartmoor’ (GDD)– create safe and open spaces for young women to experience the outdoors together. GDD will help girls reap the benefits of being active in the outdoors whilst addressing barriers or stereotypes that cause girls to not pursue outdoor activities.
The purpose of these projects is to foster a life-long love of Dartmoor. To give people the skills to access the moor responsibly and build respect for the landscape, its people and the many ways it is used, enjoyed and worked in.
Background and factual notes. The DPA’s position on backpack camping
- Definition of backpack camping. The formal definition is subject to a rewrite right now as part of the National Park’s review of Byelaws. However, the DPA believes that backpack camping:
- IS: conducted in small groups, carrying all their equipment, adhering to the National Park’s backpack camping map, low-profile tents, leaving no trace, getting in late and leaving early, carrying all rubbish out, respecting the environment of the National Park and those who live there.
- IS NOT: Camper van camping, caravans, disposable BBQs, tents up during the day, camping outside of designated backpack -camping areas.
- Why do the DPA support backpack camping on Dartmoor
- Legality. Dartmoor until the 13th of Jan 23 was the only National Park in England where backpack -camping is legal. This decision must be reversed.
- Tradition and usage. Backpack -camping has a long-established tradition on Dartmoor that is in daily use across the huge designated backpack -camping area. This tradition pre-dates the formation of the National Park.
- Mental Health benefits. The positive effect on mental and physical health from being outside in any of our National Parks cannot be overstated. Every avenue to support our contact with the natural world must be protected.
- Personal resilience. Backpack -camping promotes self-reliance, planning, physical robustness, mental resilience, an adventurous mindset, and a deep respect for the natural world.
- Children and youth. We believe that every child in the UK should have the chance to spend a night under the stars, for this to work they need wild but relatively accessible places to camp.