Take out a walking party on Dartmoor with more than fifty people and you could be fined by the over-officious Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), thanks to its proposed revisions of the bylaws of the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985.
The proposals say that:
“No person shall on the Access Land participate or engage in any activity which comprises over 50 people on foot, or 30 horses or cyclists, unless he is authorised to do so in pursuance of an agreement with the Authority and the owner of the land.”
Now, I’m not a great fan of walking in large groups, but it does occasionally happen. I’ve led Ramblers walks where holidaymakers or an adjoining group have decided to join us. Not ideal, those numbers, but I’ve never sent anyone away.
The bylaw would also effectively ban protest marches and walks. I’ve organised several protest walks over the years for both the Ramblers Association and the Dartmoor Preservation Association. Walks around threatened areas of the National Park, so that we could explain just what the threats to the National Park are. More than fifty people have turned up on those.
If you need the permission of the landowner as well as the DNPA, then would it be given – particularly if the landowner in question might be a source or collaborator to that threat to the National Park?
Just fifteen landowners own the greatest proportion of the Dartmoor National Park. Mostly the bits of Dartmoor people want to walk on. So the DNPA’s deference towards these landowners, giving them the power to ban organised walks, demonstrates once again how the park authority is in thrall to the landowning minority rather than the vast majority for whom National Parks were created.
If you want to see how few landowners have the fate of Dartmoor and those who want to use it in their power, do visit Guy Shrubsole’s excellent site: https://whoownsengland.org/2021/03/22/who-owns-dartmoor/
And the restrictions on horses? Bet than won’t apply to the fox hunting brigade?
I can appreciate why the National Park want to do this. They are naturally concerned about erosion and wildlife. But would a party of fifty-plus, walking once on a route through an area actually bother wildlife or cause such erosion? I doubt it.
This, rather like their proposed silly restrictions on wild camping, is being done for the benefit of the few and not the many.I feel most sorry for the National Park’s Rangers in all this. They are the poor suckers who are going to have to try to enforce unenforceable bylaws. The members of their park authority, sitting in comfort at their monthly meetings, are never going to be at the sharp end.
If the Dartmoor National Park Authority had a grain of sense, its members would go back to the drawing board.