Dartmoor camping will recommence following a successful appeal

The public may once again "wild camp" in Dartmoor without landowner permission, as the National Park Authority prevailed in their appeal.

The right to do so was permitted by a decades-old local law until January of this year, when a local landowner challenged it.

It will once again be the only site in England where camping in the wild is permitted without permission. Open Spaces Society, which also filed the appeal, expressed its happiness.

This case centered on whether or not untamed camping qualifies as open-air recreation, which is permitted in the Park under the Dartmoor Commons Act of 1985.

Alexander Darwall, a hedge fund manager, and his wife Diana, who have owned a 4,000-acre (16-kilometer-square) estate in southern Dartmoor since 2013 argued that it did not and sought to revoke permission for camping on their land.

Their initial High Court challenge and victory in January drew tens of thousands of protesters and prompted a nationwide discussion on public access to the English countryside.

This month, the National Park Authority and the oldest conservation charity in the United Kingdom, the Open Spaces Society (OSS), filed an appeal against that decision.

In the summary judgment reaffirming the charities' victory, Lord Justice Underhill stated that wild camping "clearly fell" under the definition of open-air recreation because many individuals "enjoyed the experience of sleeping in a tent in open country."

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, exclaimed, "This is an excellent outcome; we are relieved that the judges ruled unanimously and conclusively that knapsack camping on the commons is open-air recreation"

Kevin Bishop, chief executive officer of the Dartmoor National Park Authority, stated, "[the ruling] allows individuals to enjoy the pleasures of backpack camping on Dartmoor, so long as they adhere to the 'leave no trace' principle."

The Darwalls' representative has been contacted for comment. Two weeks ago, at the hearing, there were some bizarre exchanges between the attorneys and justices.

Timothy Morshead KC, representing the Darwalls, argued that sleep cannot be deemed "recreation" because you are unconscious during sleep.

However, one of the presiding judges, Sir Geoffrey Vos, stated that there was no distinction between a walker or painter who paused on the ground after their activity and fell asleep and a walker who entered the park and set up a tent.

Morshead states that the Darwalls opposed the erection of tent "structures." The justices then asked him where the line should be drawn regarding the erection of structures; would inflatable goalposts from Argos for children to play football be permitted?

Tim Straker KC, representing the Park and OSS, stated that wild camping does not involve large structures such as camper vans, "which on Dartmoor are restricted to designated or registered locations."

After the verdict was announced on Monday, environmental charities and activists reacted with elation. Caroline Lucas, a member of the Green Party, described it as a major victory for "re-establishing our connection with nature and the land we name home."

Guy Shrubsole, co-founder of the campaign group Right to Roam, stated that the battle for land rights would continue.

He advocated for a new Right to Roam Act to be passed in England so that camping in the countryside could be expanded beyond Dartmoor.