Camping is permitted on the northern half of Harford Moor.

The High Court ruling delivered on 13 January 2023 clarifies the situation regarding camping on Dartmoor. It is not, in fact, a legal right as had previously been assumed under the Dartmoor Byelaws.

The owners of Harford Moor consider that backpack camping in remote areas, if done responsibly, is a wonderful experience and would like it to continue. We have worked with the Dartmoor Commons Owners Association and the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) to establish a common way forward with our neighbours. We have signed a camping licence agreement with the DNPA that grants anyone permission to backpack camp on the northern half of Harford Moor, i.e. all of it north of Piles Hill in a line from Piles Gate (SX648613) to Glasscombe Corner (SX663610) and excluding Higher Piles and Piles Copse for environmental reasons. The easy access and pressure of use in the southern half of the moor means that we cannot give open permission at present, and in the past almost no backpack campers have used that area anyway (although plenty of binge campers have, giving us a lot of damage and litter to clear up).

In the area specified, permissive camping is allowed under the usual rules of “leave no trace”.

  • You may only take what can be carried in a backpack (no cooler boxes, chairs, etc.).
  • You may stay no more than one night without contacting us for consent to stay longer.
  • There must be no more than six people in a group.
  • Light no fires other than a proper small camping stove (which must not be placed on to the grass – put it on a rock).
  • Take all rubbish home.
  • Bury faeces and used toilet paper under at least 15 cm (6 in.) of turf (you will need to take a trowel with you).
  • Keep peaceful and do not disturb wildlife.
  • Chill out and enjoy it!

Most of the permitted camping area is in the South Dartmoor Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation. This is protected by law, so damaging the soil, vegetation and wildlife is a criminal offence. You must respect the fact that this is an area of both national and international environmental importance.

If you value the experience of remote backpack camping, then please consider making a contribution to the “Donate for Dartmoor” fund, which helps to pay for the management of the moor. You can this online here:

Our camping licence was signed with an administrative fee of £300 in recognition of the public good that we are offering, free at the point of delivery. At the same time, we are contributing £300 to the DNPA to add to their budget to pay for the Dartmoor Marshals. In the last few years, the marshals have helped enormously in enforcing the Camping Code of Conduct. The grant of the permissive right is therefore at no benefit to us, and we hope that users of it will respect this, and help us to manage its use.

We have drawn the southern boundary of the permitted camping area in such a way that it excludes the area where we have had damaging fly camping in the past, but keeps the area where genuine backpack camping has always happened. This is to help improve the environment, and if you are a genuine long distance backpack camper, you will not be inconvenienced. The permitted area starts only one mile from a road.

Our position is similar to that of the Dartmoor Commons Owners’ Association: that continuing the legal dispute between two of the Association’s members over wording in the 1985 Dartmoor Commons Act will not help to manage camping on the moor. We consider that what is needed is a reasoned dialogue as to the best way forward, and we are pleased to be engaged in such a discussion with representatives of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, the Ramblers’ Association, the Right to Roam Campaign and the Stars are for Everyone. The environment concerns us all, and safeguarding it is of paramount importance. As a society we are letting narrow issues cloud the bigger picture, with the result that our environment is degrading at an alarming rate.