Wild camping banned on Dartmoor as illegal campers leave human waste and dump belongings

People have been dumping their belongings after illegally camping on Dartmoor. Credit: ITV West Country

Wild camping has been temporarily banned on Dartmoor following a dramatic rise in antisocial behaviour with people dumping litter, tents and human waste on the land.

In the weeks since the easing of lockdown rangers have collected more dumped rubbish than they usually would in a year, according to Forestry England.

Now Dartmoor National Park Authority has used emergency powers to introduce a ban, which hopes to stop large groups of people fly-camping at Bellever (Riddon Ridge).

It will come into force on Friday 7 August for 27 days.

People in large groups with tents and other belongings should not be wild camping on the land. Credit: ITV West Country

National Park marshals have been hired with funding from the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner to help enforce the rule.

It comes after a significant increase in the number of people camping overnight on parts of Dartmoor in tents, motorhomes and camper vans - many breaking the law.

At Bellever the National Park Authority described the situation as "unsustainable" with "littering, human waste and fires causing damage to habitats and animals."

70

On one night in July, around 70 tents were spotted at Bellever.

50

50 firepits were counted along a 500m stretch of riverbank.

Rangers have reported finding broken bottles, plastic bags, disposable barbecues, wet wipes and used toilet paper among the mess left behind by campers.

This, they say, is harmful to wildlife on the moor and threatens the ancient monuments at Bellever - including Bronze Age hut circles which are 3,000 years old.  Human waste is another problem. The Authority says this is "wholly avoidable" and is a huge health hazard, particularly when the country is still in the midst of a global pandemic.

There is absolutely no excuse for this type of behaviour. We recognise the coronavirus pandemic has been a difficult time for us all and that people want to come to Dartmoor to enjoy the fresh air, get some exercise and connect with nature.

Kevin Bishop, Chief Executive of Dartmoor National Park Authority
Pictures have been shared in recent weeks of the litter left at the beauty spot. Credit: ITV West Country

Mr Bishop, of the Dartmoor National Park Authority, said the team are "appalled and concerned" at the actions of "the disrespectful few" who are "treating the countryside like a toilet or a rubbish dump." In previous weeks, ITV West Country has reported on the growing number of illegal campers staying on Dartmoor.

In July more than 100 people set up a camp in Holne Woods for more than two weeks, forcing the Authority to get a court order granted, install road blocks and even recruit help from the local police.

People camping with large tents or in large groups with lots of equipment must use designated campsites on Dartmoor.

Specific parts of the beauty spot allow for backpack camping. Visitors can stay for one or two nights if they carry a tent and other equipment in a rucksack, with zero impact on the environment.


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