Camping on Dartmoor (weird and wonderful things to do if you find yourself in Exeter- part 2)

Dartmoor, Devon, England


After dragging my pack around a 45 miles Ten Tors* expedition that felt like the closest I've ever come to dying of exhaustion, I've had an interesting relationship with Dartmoor. This is one of the few places in England where it is free and perfectly acceptable to camp almost anywhere you like but, ignoring the rolling hills of desolate moorland, we headed into the forest near in search of a covered clearing to pitch out tents. 

Dartmoor, Devon, England
Dartmoor, Devon, England

 

 Down next to the river, as we began to walk deeper into the trees, the rocks were carpeted in spongy green moss- it was easy to imagine we were descending into a kingdom of Elves.

 

We picked our way over fallen logs, over stepping stones and held out until we found enough flat ground to pitch our tents in relative comfort before settling down for the evening's downpour. 

Dartmoor, Devon, England, UK
Dartmoor, Devon, England, UK

*Due to a rather angry reaction, I have removed any talk of building fires. It was done entirely safely and without leaving damage, but I don't want to upset anyone! Please be aware that we were next to the river and not digging into peat. Good luck trying to start a forest fire in these conditions!*

Common sense camping tips

 

  • Be prepared for any weather. Dartmoor is notoriously changeable. 
  • Don't camp around livestock or on obvious farmland. Farmers might not appreciate it and there are more adventurous, wild places to spend the night.
  • Don't wash soap into rivers and take your rubbish home!
  • If you're worried about authorities check here for guidelines... 

 

Useful travel information

 

  • You can get to Exeter from London via train or find cheaper, but slower bus tickets in advance through megabus or national express.
  • For up to date bus routes and times around Dartmoor have a look at this interactive map.
  • Hitchhiking is very possible on the smaller roads between villages. Without your own transport this would be the most flexible way of getting around.

*Ten Tors- a challenging walk for young people run by the army. More informations on their website.

Dartmoor, Devon, England
Dartmoor, Devon, England

Write a comment

Comments: 17
  • #1

    morgan (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 10:22)

    cant believe there are busy bodies who really need to get on their high horse about fires! effing nanny state, tell ray mears he cant have a fire lol, what the hell is camping without a fire?! towny do gooders with less than no clue. been camping on dartmoor my entire life and now we cant have a fire, no instead you have to buy a gas stove? how sustainable is that? how environmentally friendly is a chunk of metal shipped from china and filled with fossil fuel? clue less braindead zombies.

  • #2

    John J (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 11:14)

    Leave no trace.

  • #3

    Katie Featherstone (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 11:29)

    Please stop making up new names to comment on my blog. As mentioned before we poured plenty of water one once we were finished and replaced the ground before we left. I have also removed the section for you! Please pick on someone actually damaging the environment?

  • #4

    lee adams (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 11:43)

    Wild camping anywhere in England and Wales is illegal.you have to be careful where you camp .far away from farms or villages as you can be moved on by authorities or land owners .You do not have the right to camp just any where . Just thought you should know as it is the law

  • #5

    Katie Featherstone (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 11:56)

    That is simply not true...

    "Backpacking and sleeping wild on Dartmoor is tremendous under clear skies. Camping for one or two nights on the open land on Dartmoor is perfectly acceptable provided that you choose your spot sensibly and don't pitch your tent on farmland, on moorland enclosed by walls, on flood plains or on archaeological sites." - from http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/visiting/vi-enjoyingdartmoor/camping

  • #6

    Katie Featherstone (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 11:57)

    I mentioned in the post not to camp on farm land obviously. It's common sense, the majority of my readers are not idiots.

  • #7

    Jim Winn (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 12:21)

    Excerpt from the Dartmoor Byelaws :-
    Fires.
    (1) "No person shall light a fire on the access land, or place or throw or let fall a lighted match or any other thing so as to be likely to cause a fire. This byelaw shall not prevent the lighting or use in such a manner as not to cause danger of or damage by fire of a properly constructed camping stove or cooker". Maximum Penalty - £500 fine
    I wonder how many people have lit a barbeque or camp fire on the moor and contravened this byelaw -

  • #8

    Katie Featherstone (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 13:01)

    OK, yes thank-you. I have deleted it now...

  • #9

    Paul Wallis (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 13:59)

    For those of you don't know, wild camping in England and Wales requires the land owners permission. If you don't have permission then you are trespassing. This is a civil matter not a criminal matter. Dartmoor is the exception as it Byelaws allow wild camping as a right in certain areas. See Stephen Neales excellent book 'Wild Camping', it goes into all the legalities. Paul Wallis, Mountain Leader(T).

  • #10

    morgan (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 16:36)

    To be upset by someone going out and experiencing nature, interacting with it in the most traditional sense (by lighting a fire from natural materials and cooking your - potentially foraged - food), makes you a particularly pointless person, and isn't the internet a wonderful way to for pointless people to anonymously express their blatant jealousy. If a person is doing no harm by having a safe fire and putting it out completely, then you should leave them to it. and since not one reader of this post was actually there how on earth can you comment on the safety or responsibility of the fire? GET A LIFE FOLKS and stop nay saying when others are trying to live theirs. These bylaws are to stop morons from ruining the ''beauty'' of a barren deforested wasteland. We aren't morons, we are all experienced campers, and devout environmentalists. For those of you who want to ''preserve'' dartmoor by the way... you are wrong to want to. It should all be forest. You should want to change it, you should want to improve it. Not just shit on good peoples good times. The fire laws originally were a forestry commission thing anyway. The woods we were in were not pine, the ground we were on was not peat, (like most of dartmoor) dont you think its massively stupid to say that we shouldn't light fires when a few hundred meters away they burn heather? thats acres of fire spreading across the moor.

  • #11

    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) (Tuesday, 22 September 2015 22:44)

    You did a 45 mile expedition?! Well done Katie! I've never been to Dartmoor - I've actually hardly been to any of the South West - need to try and correct that!

  • #12

    Katie Featherstone (Wednesday, 23 September 2015 12:56)

    Thank-you Morgan. :) Common sense always wins over bylaws in my book.

    I hope you get there Shikha!

  • #13

    Mary {The World Is A Book} (Sunday, 04 October 2015 17:21)

    Beautiful area! It looks like fairies or elves can come darting out. You did quite a trek hee and it looks like it was worth it. Sorry you had to deal with trolls here.

  • #14

    Katie Featherstone (Sunday, 04 October 2015 22:26)

    Thank-you Mary :)

  • #15

    Nathan Anderson (Thursday, 29 October 2015 15:18)

    Got to love accidentally stirring up some controversy with an innocent post.

    More importantly, this looks like an amazing area to wander around and get absorbed in the wilderness. Honestly, it reminds me of the lush forests on the Olympic Peninsula near my home. I love camping in the forest!

  • #16

    Katie Featherstone (Thursday, 29 October 2015 15:25)

    Aw, thank-you Nathan! I love it too. :)

  • #17

    Guy (Thursday, 05 November 2015)

    Might just check this out, next time I'm in the UK. It looks pretty good from what you've posted. Try the deep Basque Country sometime (water from the small streams is seriously good). Aside from jerks, stealth camp right and now one will know you've been there - kinda like that's the objective.

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