Working together to keep Dartmoor special

L-r Ally Kohler – DNPa, Pc Martin Beck, Alison Hernandez – Pcc, Peter Harper – DNPa, Jos Mead – Ablou facilities ltd, Ben Robinson – Forestry England,
Dave Roberts and Louis Bedmall – Marshals, Paul Glanville – DNPa ranger.

Nature and wildlife are starting to recover at a much-loved Dartmoor beauty spot thanks to emergency powers aimed at reducing fly camping and anti-social behaviour.

Dartmoor National Park introduced a short-term ban on camping at Bellever / Riddon Ridge to protect public health, nature and wildlife. National Park Marshals were employed to support Rangers with on-the-ground engagement.

Although the ban has now ended, the site will be closely monitored. Dartmoor Rangers and Marshals will continue to patrol the area including at weekends. While that is the case people are urged to not camp in the area while it continues to recover.

Since the easing of pandemic restrictions in England, Dartmoor has welcomed many visitors who want to enjoy its unique places and spaces. But there has also been a significant increase in the numbers of people camping overnight in large tents, motorhomes and camper vans, many in breach of National Park byelaws.

Bellever / Riddon Ridge was particularly affected by littering, human waste and 100 fire-pits dug into the ground. This was damaging archaeology and habitats and was creating another, avoidable, health hazard.

The extra powers and patrols had an immediate and positive effect and the numbers of campers dropped overnight.

Local people and Dartmoor Rangers noticed wildlife returning to the river and local livestock were able to graze in an environment free of human and plastic waste.

The ground where fire-pits were dug was repaired by Rangers and is starting to grow back. The risk of damage to nationally important Bronze Age artefacts such as hut circles has also reduced. The atmosphere at the Bellever / Riddon Ridge area is different with walkers, families and nature lovers able to enjoy the area without encountering litter or public health hazards.

Dartmoor National Park Authority’s Director for Conservation and Communities Alison Kohler said: “We are pleased that people listened, acted and did not camp here. This has been a fantastic joint effort working closely with Forestry England and with the support of many visitors and residents. We would like to thank everyone who has offered help.

‘As a result the area is recovering, but there is still a long way to go and we must not undo all of the good work. We hope people come here and enjoy this beautiful space for the day, but if anyone wants to stay overnight then they should book a place to stay or use a designated campsite.

‘Dartmoor is a protected landscape that is here for everyone to enjoy. We will not hesitate to use the powers again to ensure it remains protected and that everyone can enjoy it safely and without experiencing the issues we saw this summer.”

The action was supported by Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez, landowner the Duchy of Cornwall, Natural England and the Forestry Commission, which manages Bellever Forest. Tim Powles, Forestry England Community Ranger, said: “After escalating damage and antisocial behaviour, the recent action is restoring Bellever to the beautiful corner of Dartmoor that people love and we are proud to help care for.

‘Nature is quick to reclaim the space we give it and it is wonderful to see day visitors enjoying the peace and beauty of the moor and leaving no trace. The time, money, and team work are all worth it to see the landscape improving, and I hope we can rely on the public to support Bellever’s ongoing recovery.”

If people are planning a family or group camping trip or have large tents, then they must stay in a designated camping, caravanning and touring site. Overnight stays in vehicles in car parks, laybys or roadside verges are not allowed and is in breach of byelaws. Use authorised sites which accept motorhomes for overnight stays.

If people are planning to wild camp (when backpacking), they need to follow simple rules:

  • stay out of sight: pitch well away from roads, buildings or farmers’ fields,
  • travel light: carry everything in a rucksack as part of a one or two day walk. This means small tents only,
  • camp away from other people,
  • tread lightly: keep Dartmoor beautiful by taking all litter home and not lighting fires.

More information is at Visit Dartmoor (https://www.visitdartmoor.co.uk/)

Check camping information and the interactive camping map on the website
(https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/enjoy-dartmoor/outdoor-activities/camping)

Laura White

Author: Laura White

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