RAY Mears, author, TV presenter and survival and bushcraft specialist has weighed in on the Dartmoor camping debate at a recent talk.

At the Bushcraft Show 2023, the TV star aired his views against the recent high court ruling that effectively ended the right to wild camp on Dartmoor without the landowner’s permission.

Prior to the high court ruling, Dartmoor was the last place in England and Wales where camping without permission was a legal right.

However, this ended abruptly in January this year, after Alexander Darwall, the owner of 4,000 acres of Dartmoor, took the DNPA to the high court, and successfully challenged the decades-old legal underpinning to wild camping in Dartmoor National Park’s bylaws.

After being asked his thoughts on the matter, Ray Mears said: ’I think it’s a national disgrace. I know Dartmoor really well, I know every inch of Dartmoor, I love Dartmoor, I learned to navigate on Dartmoor.

‘The thing I enjoy about going to Dartmoor is seeing young people on Dartmoor doing their Duke of Edinburgh Gold and Silver Awards there, and I watch those young people growing.

‘I think that’s really important. I did that, they’re doing it, it’s a right of passage.

‘Because of a couple of people’s rather selfish interests, the important contribution that Dartmoor plays has been undermined.

‘But we can turn this around, Because, in truth, we should have more access to wild camping, in National Parks everywhere, they’re our parks.

‘That’s what we need to do. Now, you can’t just let everybody go out into the countryside because there are people that will sadly trash it out of ignorance or because they just couldn’t care less, but the majority don’t. We do need to police it in some way and educate people as to how to enjoy these places.’

Ray added: ‘But the benefits that are accrued by the experiences of learning self-reliance in wild-country are massive. And this country has been built on those experiences, and the young adults that have been to our national parks; climbing, canoeing, caving, sleeping out, bush crafting, and fishing, they all discover themselves and get stronger for it.

‘And that contributes massively to our economy, to our strength as a nation, to our attitude to the world, and to our confidence. We should be encouraging it, not denying it.’

An appeal is now in progress, after Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) unanimously voted to take the wild camping case to the Court of Appeal.

Dartmoor Preservation Association has also launched a fundraiser to contribute towards the legal expenses, which has raised almost £60,000 so far.