Hundreds march on Dartmoor in call to rewild Duchy of Cornwall land

  • Watch Kathy Wardle's report

Hundreds of people have marched across Dartmoor calling for its biggest landowner the Duchy of Cornwall to take action to protect the landscape.

Protestors from campaign groups Wild Card and 38 degrees carried a giant gauntlet across the moor at Princetown in a symbolic gesture.

The groups have accused the new Duke of Cornwall, Prince William of under-ambition to restore what they call the moor's 'dying eco systems'. They say the land should be returned to public ownership if progress isn't made soon.

The 'gauntlet' is carried across Dartmoor Credit: ITV News

Annie Randall from the group Wild Card told ITV News they have five demands they want to see urgent action on.

Annie Randall, Campaigner: ''The first is to restore the temperate rain forest that exists, the second demand is restore the bogs and heaths, the third demand is restore the meadows, the fourth is bring back keystone species where possible, and the fifth demand is pay the farmers to support them to produce nature as well as food.''

Fellow campaigner Andrew Smith said that whilst some recent initiatives by the Duchy of Cornwall were a positive step forward, they didn't go far enough.

Andrew Smith, Wild Card: ''We don't believe that the Duke is doing enough with the land that he currently has. If he doesn't we are asking for him to push for the land that he owns to be put back into public ownership. It's a long slow process and we need things like this putting pressure on. We've seen him moving forward, but very slowly.''

In response to the claims, a spokesperson for The Duchy of Cornwall said:

“Sustainable stewardship is at the heart of everything the Duchy does. We have championed the preservation of natural ecosystems for over fifty years and are constantly looking for new ways to continue improving biodiversity, conservation and public access to green spaces.

Our ongoing work includes naturally regenerating Wistman's Wood on Dartmoor to double its size by 2040 and restoring 1200 hectares of degraded peatland in the area to its natural state by 2025."

Wistman's Wood Credit: ITV News

The Duchy of Cornwall also highlighted that it had recently supported a group of tenant farmers and other partners in submitting an application to Defra’s Landscape Recovery fund for a project to deliver nature enhancement, and is actively supporting the conservation of the red-listed curlew on Dartmoor.

The protest at Princetown also follows a national debate over the future of sheep in Dartmoor National Park earlier this year, with Natural England suggesting farmers may need to reduce their stocks for the benefit of wildlife habitats.

A Defra Spokesperson said: “We have commissioned an independent review which will work with local farmers and stakeholders and will draw on the best available evidence to provide an independent perspective on the management of the protected sites on the moor.

"It will also help us identify how we can deliver much-needed environmental improvements on Dartmoor while supporting other priorities such as agricultural production, public access and the preservation of cultural and natural heritage.”