CAMPING SUSPENDED FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE
Anyone camping at Piles Copse will be asked to leave and prosecuted under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) for any damage caused, such as from lighting fires or leaving rubbish.
Until early 2020, we allowed people to camp at Piles Copse. However, in the years leading up to then it had become very busy. Backpack camping for small groups has been allowed for many years in some parts of Dartmoor, and that used to be sustainable because it was very sporadic and spread out. This provision never covered enclosed areas like Piles, but many people ignored this and camped there without our consent. The popularity of Piles Copse meant that it had become intensively used and abused. It simply cannot sustain the level of use of experienced in the period of 2010 to 2019. Obviously we want to avoid its becoming completely degraded.
In January 2020 we realised that we must stop people having open fires, as they have caused extensive damage to the ground and vegetation. In effect, they have made it impossible for us to fulfil our legal obligations under the designation of the Site of Special Scientific Interest. Once COVID-restrictions came in, camping was in any case illegal. This allowed us to make some progress in restoration work (see the blog posts on this website), but it is clear that we need much more time. A return of camping will quickly set us back to the starting point.
We are therefore not giving anyone permission to camp at Piles for at least the calendar year of 2021. We may be able to re-open some areas for camping in a more regulated way in 2022, but we would need to work out a way to manage this.
In addition to our concern about maintaining the value and beauty of Piles Copse, there are also difficulties associated with COVID. There is no sanitation, and coronavirus remains active in faeces for a considerable length of time; and knowing this and having too often cleared up other people’s mess, we cannot responsibly give permission for anyone to camp where we know others have been. A further concern is for the volunteers of the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Group. In the past they have evacuated injured campers, but that is now much harder to do. The Air Ambulance can only take casualties in critical condition, so others have to be stretchered overland, by people wearing full PPE.
When COVID rules allow, backpack camping for small groups, for a night or two, is permitted on some parts of the Dartmoor commons (i.e. the unenclosed moorland). As an enclosed area, Piles Copse is not covered by that provision.