Tale of two tribes in Dartmoor wild camping row
HCritics would have you believe Alexander Darwall is a modern version of Poldark Villain George Warleggan.
A stern, hunting and shooting wealthy banker who made his fortune in France gave £90,000 to Nigel Farage’s party, £5,000 to the local Tory MP, bought a large tract of Dartmoor and promptly banned locals from the old right to camp on it the stars.
To his friends, Mr Darwall is more like Ross Poldark from the popular Cornwall historical drama, a heritage hero who saves a national park by stopping people who are endangering its wildlife and littering the landscape – and more worse.
The bitter debate that has divided Devon began when Alexander and Diana Darwall argued that some feral campers on their land were causing livestock and environmental problems. They demanded a judicial determination that citizens could only set up tents there overnight with their consent.
Mr and Mrs Darwall, who raise cattle on Stall Moor, which is part of their 3,450-acre estate on southern Dartmoor, have been ruled by a judge that a 1985 law regulating access to moorland does not provide for this a right to wild camp.
But those who, like their families before them, regularly stay in the countryside cannot bear the decision.
Protests soon grew and on Friday a under-fire Dartmoor National Park Authority announced it would be appealing the High Court’s ruling which said people had refused permission from Mr Darwall – the landowners – to move need camping.
The pressure came from Britain’s camping and hiking communities, thousands of whom had traveled to protest last week’s ruling.
Right to Roam, the environmental activist group, was among those who traveled to the Southwest and organized a march attended by an estimated 2,000 people.
Walkers meandered through the picturesque village of Cornwood and past Stall Moor, at the heart of the Darwalls’ court process. There was singing and dancing at Croken Tor – the traditional center of Dartmoor where tin miners used to meet to settle disputes.
Hand-painted signs with cartoon depictions of Mr Darwall featured slogans such as “Please Sir, I’d like some Moor” and “The Peasants are Revolting”.
While protesters came from as far away as Essex and the Midlands, there was a strong local contingent determined to show their opposition to what they believed should remain a space open to all.
Devon native Guy Singh-Watson, a farmer and creator of Riverford, an organic farm and UK organic vegetable crate delivery company, said he’s camped on Dartmoor many times over the past 50 years and never “even had a chip “ found package left behind“.
Mr Darwall’s decision to seek the court order had nothing to do with protecting Dartmoor, according to Singh-Watson, who claimed on his blog the hedge fund manager bought the land to “make even more money”.
The Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) has said it “supports” an apparent compromise – the “new permitting scheme” in which landowners would give the authority permission to allow the public to wild camp.
The agency also said it will investigate which areas of common land owned by DNPA could be opened up for backpacking.
The ‘permissive system’ would involve landowners entering into a legal agreement with DNPA, with up to £300 paid annually to landowners who choose to do so.
According to a DNPA report, this money would be withdrawn from the project fund in 2023/24 and built into the revenue budget in the coming years.
Protesters fear it’s the start of a movement – and are asking what other landlords might decide next.
Landowners could keep the fee, but several have already indicated they could return it to the national park, according to the report.
Areas where wild camping can take place without the public having to obtain individual permits from landowners are already shown on an interactive map on the agency’s website.
Anyone planning a wild camp must refer to the map and follow all leave no trace principles so as not to impact the area they have been in.
This system was agreed “in principle” with the Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association within days of the High Court ruling of 13 January
Activists first hit out at the deal, which they say was a “ransom demand” from landowners like the Darwalls, who could revoke camping permits at any time.
Richard Foord, the Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, said in a Twitter post on Friday that he fully supports the Authority’s decision to appeal and hopes the judgment can be overturned.
Mr Foord, who replaced Neil Parish last year when the Tory MP resigned after being caught viewing pornographic material in Parliament, added: “Our national parks should be open for all to explore and enjoy – with no curfew or ransom from a small number of wealthy owners.”
In another post, he added: “This week I tabled a bill in Parliament that would allow wild camping to continue on Dartmoor – with an amendment to the law.
“I will continue to urge Conservatives to allow a debate on this so we can protect our historical rights permanently.”
The riot in Devon has spread to Westminster and on Friday The guard reported that Labor will pass a roaming law when it comes to power in direct response to the wild camping ban.
After Friday’s meeting, DNPA Executive Director Dr. Kevin Bishop: “We are grateful to the joint landowners, including Mr and Mrs Darwall, who have moved so quickly to positively support the permissive backpacking system.
“The High Court ruling raises important issues of public concern that are central to the purpose of our national parks. For this reason, the authority has decided to apply for leave to appeal against the verdict.”
Jon Moses of Right to Roam responded to the news: “We strongly oppose the sale of our rights in exchange for restricted access, which landowners can arbitrarily revoke at any time, and with a price tag that will be billed to taxpayers.” . ”
The line goes on.