CAMPING SUSPENDED THROUGHOUT 2020
Until early in 2020, we allowed people to camp at Piles Copse. However, in recent years it has become very busy. Backpack camping for small groups has been allowed for many years in some parts of Dartmoor, and that has been sustainable because it has been very sporadic and spread out. The popularity of Piles Copse has meant that it has become intensively used and abused. It simply cannot sustain the level of use of the last few years. 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 has 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 the remainder of 2020, and will review the situation for 2021. We intend to re-open some areas for camping in a more regulated way from Easter 2021.
Anyone camping at Piles Copse without our permission 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.
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 2019 they had to evacuate an injured camper, 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.
From 4th July 2020, 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.