Tale of two tribes in Dartmoor wild camping row
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His critics would have you believe Alexander Darwall is a modern-day version of Poldark villain George Warleggan.
A stern-faced, hunting and shooting, wealthy banker who made a fortune in France, gave £90,000 to Nigel Farage’s party, £5,000 to the local Tory MP, bought a large chunk of Dartmoor and promptly banned the ancient right of local folk to camp under the stars.
To his friends Mr Darwall is more like Ross Poldark from the popular historical drama set in Cornwall, a heritage hero who is saving a national park by stopping people who endanger its wildlife and pollute the landscape with litter – and much worse.
The bitter debate that has divided Devon began when Alexander and Diana Darwall argued that some wild campers on their land caused problems to livestock and the environment. They sought a court declaration that members of the public could only pitch tents there overnight with their consent.
Mr and Mrs Darwall, who keep cattle on Stall Moor, which forms part of their more than 3,450-acre estate in the southern part of Dartmoor, secured a finding from a judge that a 1985 law, which regulates access to moorland, does not provide a right to wild camp.
Alexander Darwall got a court order banning campers from pitching up on parts of Dartmoor he owns without seeking permission
But to those who, like their families before them, regularly enjoy overnight stays on the land, the decision is one they could not stand for.
Protests soon started to build and on Friday, an under fire Dartmoor National Park Authority announced it will appeal against the High Court ruling that declared people need Mr Darwall’s – the landowners – permission to camp.
The pressure has come from Britain’s camping and walking communities, thousands of whom travelled to protest against last week’s ruling.
Protestors walk up to Stall Mall at Dartmoor…