One Man vs a People? Land Rights on Dartmoor

Briony Greenhill
3 min readFeb 3, 2023
Protestors gathering on 21st Jan 2023 to defend the right to Wild Camp on Dartmoor

Dartmoor is a National Park but the land itself is privately owned.

One of the owners of a Dartmoor estate recently took the parks authority to court to de-legalise wild camping on Dartmoor. It’s the only place in England where wild camping is legal.

Alexander Darwall, a former banker / Hedge Fund manager, fought and won to remove the legal right to wild camp on Dartmoor.

Here’s the petition against it.

A few things to say about this.

1) A huge question is why. Really? You don’t like the odd little backpacking tent or two popping up in nooks on the moor from time to time? It bothers you so much you would commit yourself to a legal battle to remove a wild camping right from a nation?

2) So, why? Some people speculate a paying, permit system. Really? You care about a few permit pounds from time to time when you’re a hedge fund millionaire? The national park would pay. Great. More money going from public to private hands.

3) Ollie’s friend heard rumours (so very unreliable source, note) — that he may be speculating that there is lithium beneath his land that could potentially be profitably mined in an energy-scarce future scenario. Step 1, remove campers.

94% of British land and 97% of British rivers are not accessible to the public. (Source — The Book of Trespass). Let me say that another way. We 60 million inhabitants of Britain have legal access to 6% of the land and 3% of the rivers. The rest is private and our presence there is trespassing.

Hence the growing Right to Roam movement.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

With 70% of UK land being owned by 1% of the population (Source — We the Uncivilised film) — we have one of the most unequal concentrations of land ownership in the world, second only to Brazil I believe.

Our land ownership inequality is a huge root of our economic inequality, point out more and more political economists like Laurie Macfarlane and the New Economics Foundation.

I believe we need a land reform movement for the UK.

But, fuck, one man overturning a right of a people? Who takes a national park to court?

Please if you’re a UK citizen or resident sign this petition to overthrow the bloody thing.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/631241

Then let’s plot a revolution.

Thank you to the organisers and all of the 3000 + people who walked up on to Dartmoor on Saturday. I look forward to seeing you for many acts of defiant wild camp trespassing

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Briony Greenhill

Briony Greenhill is a folk-soul improvisational artist who teaches Collaborative Vocal Improvisation (CVI); formerly a researcher with a 1st in politics.