Last Chance For Better Access To Dartmoor!

by 24

Dartmoor National Park is celebrating its 70th birthday this weekend, and with it comes the closure of its consultation on amendments to its byelaws. You should probably take the chance now to respond and help add your voice to calls for better access of bikes.

If you’re partial to a spot of wild camping, you should also take note – the proposed changes prevent all hammocks, or anything that attaches to a tree, and also provides for the restriction ‘Camping is only permitted in single person bivouacs or in tents that sleep no more than 3 people and can be carried in a backpack and in groups of no more than 6 people’. Can your tent that you carry in your bike packing set up fit in a back pack?

Probably of wider general interest is the restriction proposed on access for bikes. How many turned up for your last group ride? Probably not more than 30, but on a nice day it’s not inconceivable. Best get your paperwork in order: ‘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 owner of the land and the Authority.’

No big groups, no bikes, no race horses?

The Dartmoor access restrictions group bikes in with motor bikes and cars, rather than with horses and walkers (although race horses are treated to their own restrictions!). This seems to be down to historical concerns voiced by ‘the commoners’, which Cycling UK thinks is unsupported by any evidence. They’ve published an in depth analysis of why they think the byelaw is flawed, and you should read it in full, here. In case you can’t be bothered to click, here are a few fun excerpts:

The key issue here is one of proportionality. If the byelaws were targeted at those cycling in really sensitive areas, or punished reckless or intimidating behaviour, then we would say they were balanced and reasonable – but it doesn’t. It criminalises cycling even if riders are on well-surfaced Land Rover tracks used by National Park Rangers. That’s not proportionate, it’s absurd.

Cycling UK

We’ve seen no evidence of any such conflict, either historical or recent – and that is why Cycling UK feels that the continuation of the existing byelaw is unjustified and must be looked at again

Keiran Foster, Cycling UK off-road adviser

Cycling UK believes that the byelaw as currently proposed flies in the face of the Glover review recommendations, and directly contradicts the National Park’s legal duty to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public.

Cycling UK

You’ve got until 1st November to get your comments in!

Singletrack Full MembershipJoin us

If you like what we do - if you like our independence then the best way to support us is by joining us. Every penny of your membership goes back into Singletrack to pay the bills and the wages of the people who work here. No shareholders to pay, just the people who create the content you love to read and watch.


  • This topic has 24 replies, 12 voices, and was last updated 1 month ago by Del.
Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)
  • Last Chance For Better Access To Dartmoor!
  • Premier Icon abingham
    Full Member

    As a local and regular user of Dartmoor for cycling, camping, hiking and other purposes I’m pretty unimpressed to see most of these amendments. Another gem is that under the proposals you can’t stay overnight in a motorised vehicle, so stealth van camping will supposedly be illegal. With that being said there are some sensible suggestions in there, like not allowing low-flying drones over livestock and no raves – fair enough really.

    Anyway, even if it does get approved, I can’t see how the NPR and Dartmoor Authorities will police some of them. It’s such a vast swathe of land they’re legislating in that it can’t possibly be enforceable. I also feel for the poor Rangers that are going to be made to enforce some of the stupider rules.

    I’ve filled in the survey already – let’s see if common sense prevails!

    Premier Icon jam bo
    Full Member

    as another dartmoor local, i’m bemused by the proposed revisions. there was nothing that couldn’t have been dealt with by the existing bylaws but the enforcement is none existent. these amendments will penalise the responsible and be ignored by the irresponsible.

    Premier Icon Rich
    Full Member

    As always unfortunately.

    Premier Icon Del
    Full Member

    Good to see Cycling UK stepping up and good to see STW covering the issue. Thank you.

    Premier Icon jam bo
    Full Member

    I should add, the title of this article is misleading. There is little chance of better access as a result of this process. Only a reduction in access and more draconian enforcement of it is on the cards.

    not that I actually expect anything on the ground to change.

    Premier Icon mattbristol
    Full Member

    “…unless he is authorised to do so…”. At least half the population will be unencumbered by the new bylaws.

    Premier Icon cx_monkey
    Full Member

    I don’t get how there’s an opinion that cyclists will be faced with less access to Dartmoor – we’re already excluded from the access areas other than on applicable rights of way. They’re not suggesting winding that back in any further. But, I do welcome that Cycling UK are seeking the discontinuation of the current bylaw in that respect. As an actual resident of said park, and do know Simon Lee reasonably well (Ranger team manager) as he pops by our local quite often, I’d say that what they’re trying to do (notwithstanding lumping cycling in with motorised restrictions) is well meaning – they’ve experienced an pretty awful past 2 summers with lots of people simply taking the pi$$ – turning up and camping wherever they want (popular misconception that you can wild camp anywhere, but has always been specific zones), leaving heaps of refuse (including human), letting rampant dogs scare terrorise wildlife and livestock. The ‘campsite’ at Bellever pretty much ended up being a summer long freeparty… They actually employed security staff to go around and attempt to reduce the impact of antisocial camping by trying to enforce the restrictions already in place. The wild camping guidelines have always been that you should be camping out of sight of the roads and other properties and carrying in whatever you need – no fires, etc, etc – leave no impact. 10 man tents, generators, lighting and sound systems kinda flies in the face of that. They’re trying to protect the environment and not see it destroyed by the inconsiderate actions of some. For the most part, they’re simply rewording in essence what is in the bylaws already to make them harder to misinterperate (twist) and easier to enforce (if needed). The wild camping area is shrinking under the proposal, it’s taking out strips bordering roads and a few sensitive areas – it’s gettign a few % smaller. Also find it slightly amusing that Hannah’s piece picks up on the hammocks and not attaching stuff to trees – if you’ve been up there much you’ll know that trees are a bit of a rare thing, especially in the permitted wild camp areas. They’re trying to protect a sensitive environment for us all to enjoy. Maybe they’re getting some of it wrong in the eyes of some, but you have to take a look at it from the Park’s and local residents side of things too, and see the compromise they’re trying to achieve.

    Premier Icon Del
    Full Member

    <span style=”font-size: 0.8rem;”>Understand the concerns regarding what happened in lockdown but those were pretty unusual circumstances.</span>

    I know the FE ranger whose patch that was on and it sounded pretty difficult for him.

    <span style=”font-size: 0.8rem;”>the compromise they’re trying to achieve</span>

    <span style=”font-size: 0.8rem;”>Wrt mountain biking there doesn’t appear to be any compromise at all. In fact they’re doubling down on the prohibition applied in ’89 when we were the new rabble rousers on the block. Are they really that worried about the environmental effects of a few of us poaching a bit of sheep track? It’s been going on for 20 years. Can anyone point to the harm caused?</span>

    Premier Icon jam bo
    Full Member

    I don’t get how there’s an opinion that cyclists will be faced with less access to Dartmoor – we’re already excluded from the access areas other than on applicable rights of way.

    as an example, the old railway from burrator to princetown? widely advertised and heavily used a cycle route, even signposted as such from memory.

    currently classified as a permissive footpath. £500 fine for riding on it under the new rules.

    Premier Icon jam bo
    Full Member

    dr blackalls drive. bridleway for ~100m, and then unclassified.

    £500 fine for riding on it under the new rules.

    Premier Icon jam bo
    Full Member

    rattlebrook railway up to great links tor etc. unclassified.

    £500 fine for riding on it under the new rules.

    Premier Icon jam bo
    Full Member

    any of the north okehampton ranges. pretty much all landrover/gravel roads.  unclassified.

    £500 fine for riding on it under the new rules.

    do i need to go on?

    Premier Icon jam bo
    Full Member

    with regard to the hammock thing. the only area I can think of on the map that is in the permitted zone and in the trees is in lustleigh cleave.

    but why specifically exclude hammocks? i’m sure it’s possible to put up a hammock without damaging a tree.

    have a law about damaging trees if you need to protect trees.

    Premier Icon trailmonkey
    Free Member

    I’m not entirely sure how this is an amendment to existing laws ? We’ve never ( in my MTB experience) been allowed on anything other than BWs, RUPPS, BOATS and permissive paths unless access has been granted by the landowner ?
    Overall, while the dominant narrative reads – Dartmoor is a pristine wilderness to be preserved rather than the equally possible – Dartmoor is a post industrial landscape to be enjoyed, then landowners, with the full backing of the NPA will dominate who does what, where and when.

    Premier Icon cx_monkey
    Full Member

    at Jam Bo – my point is that we were never meant to ride those areas under the current/previous rules (and in fact for open access land in general…), and if you’ve not had a word from a ranger as they’ve caught you poaching in that North western part particularly, then you’ve been lucky. I also didn’t say that they’d got it right, but pointing out that a lot of incidents have lead to this point – very likely including cyclists too (I also know land managers for National and Woodlands trust areas locally that have had big problems with riders over the last 18 months building trails through SSSI and Ancient Woodland areas, ignoring signs, cutting fences (yes, really), then putting the ride and segments on Strava then more and more riders coming in. The Burrator-Princetown route is an interesting one for sure – DNP themselves actively promote it as a cycle route – so given that they’re the land manager for the the land the route goes through, you’d assume that they have given it permissive status themselves…? Dunno. Any way – I didn’t say they have it right (and I agree £500 fine is extreme), more that its useful to look at it from the other side too to gain a level of understanding to why it’s happened. It’s good that Cycling UK are trying to get us better access, no doubt at all, not arguing against it in the slightest.

    Premier Icon jam bo
    Full Member

    the old rattlebrook railway up to great link tor is well made, used by the range vehicles and not legitimate.

    the bridleway back past bleak house, and brat tor is rutted, eroded and perfectly legitimate.

    I’ve never ever seen rangers out that way, walking, running, biking or camping.

    Premier Icon jam bo
    Full Member

    The Burrator-Princetown route is an interesting one for sure – DNP themselves actively promote it as a cycle route – so given that they’re the land manager for the the land the route goes through, you’d assume that they have given it permissive status themselves…?

    i was suprised when I checked the map earlier but on devon.cc definitive rights of way map there is nothing recorded, and on OS25k its marked as a permissive footpath.

    Premier Icon Del
    Full Member

    I also know land managers for National and Woodlands trust areas locally that have had big problems with riders over the last 18 months building trails through SSSI and Ancient Woodland areas, ignoring signs, cutting fences (yes, really),

    None of which is addressed by this proposal. What you’ve got there is criminal damage.

    Premier Icon cx_monkey
    Full Member

    i was suprised when I checked the map earlier but on devon.cc definitive rights of way map there is nothing recorded, and on OS25k its marked as a permissive footpath.

    Gonna ask Simon about that one when I see him next

    Premier Icon burko73
    Full Member

    I think as is the case in the new forest the interesting and illogical thing is the way that horse riders have free access everywhere but cycles are treated/ lumped in with motor vehicles. Riding a bike on a vehicle track thats already there does little to no damage. Riding a horse down same track cuts it up somewhat. There are probably good reasons for restricting all access to the most sensitive areas or to routes that aren’t surfaced and are likely to erode but banning cycles from vehicle tracks seems crazy. We should be allowing more cycling on well made vehicle tracks in the countryside generally where there are no significant other constraints.

    Premier Icon luket
    Full Member

    I’ve written in.

    Key point for me is that cycling is more restricted and subject to greater penalties in the National Park than outside it, while walking, horseriding and camping are all, before and after the proposed changes, allowed freer access in the National Park than outside. I think it’s stating the bleeding obvious that behaviour like cutting fences is wrong, but it’s only of tangential relevance. On cycling their response to the bad behaviour of a few is a closed minded and mean-spirited approach which hits overwhelmingly the responsible majority. I don’t think the same is true at all for walkers and campers, for whom a clear effort is evident to maintain a spirit of open access, with a clamping down only on specific damaging behaviour.

    Premier Icon crashrash
    Full Member

    As another Devon local I have some understanding for the rangers but the park authority, as ever, is out of touch and does not reflect the vast majority of the locals. £500 fine for riding a bike on an existing land rover track is madness!

    Premier Icon James
    Full Member

    * 3. BYELAW 4 VEHICLES
    No person shall without reasonable excuse drive, ride or propel any mechanically propelled vehicle or any pedal propelled vehicle on any part of the Access Land other than on a highway where there is a right of way for that class of vehicle.

    Do you agree with the amendments relating to the byelaws on the use of vehicles?

    Yes

    No

    No opinion
    Please provide the reason for your answer (optional)

    – survey here, above is question 3. Get onto it then… if anyone has a legally smart reason for answers, please post up.

    There are only a few unclassified tracks that are of any interest to a cyclist on the common land. They generally have good surfaces eg one prominent track is an old mine road. Otherwise the common land off the rights of way would only be of interest to the most determined and adventurous cyclist – the surfaces are simply not good riding. No harm is done by cycling on a track that is suitably surfaced.
    Cyclists don’t have an implied right to be on a footpath and can be told to leave by a landowner’s representative. That should suffice here if it does in the rest of the UK and criminalising via trespass is out of proportion to the act. The classification of tracks is not always clear and shouldn’t need to be made so by landowners. Additional signposting would be to the detriment of the area.

    https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/about-us/who-we-are/byelaws-consultation

    Premier Icon Del
    Full Member

    the common land off the rights of way would only be of interest to the most determined and adventurous cyclist – the surfaces are simply not good riding

    I replied on your other thread but will do so here too. There are plenty of bits of trail that would be worth riding that are not ROW on Dartmoor.

Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.