Campaigners are building on a historic turnout against a ruling that would ban wild camping on Dartmoor by asking MPs to dramatically expand public access to green space across the UK.
People are being urged to sign and forward letters to their local MPs calling for them to support a new Right to Roam act to guarantee the right to wild camp and extend access.
Only eight per cent of the UK is currently accessible to the public under the Countryside & Rights of Way (CRoW) Act of 2000, something campaign group Right to Roam was set up to address.
The letter, which is available for download and printing, states that: “Responsible wild camping leaves no trace on the countryside – but it leaves a huge impression on everyone who experiences it.
“Access to nature is critical to our public health. Physical inactivity costs the NHS around £1bn per year, and wider society around £7.4bn per year. Passing a law to extend our right to roam in nature costs, in the context of these figures, next to nothing.”
Around 3,000 people attended the protest on Dartmoor last weekend, including journalist George Monbiot, after landowner and Alexander Darwall won a court case to overturn the right to wild camp on the moor, the only place in England and Wales it was permitted to do so.
It has sparked huge outrage and what has been described as “the rebirth of the right to roam movement” and the largest turnout since the mass trespasses across Kinder Scout, in the Peak District, in the 1930s.
Tweeting from the march, Monbiot said: “A massive turnout at the #DartmoorProtest. It’s the 21st Century’s Kinder Scout. The moment when we start to reclaim our place in the land.”
Journalist Lucy Siegle added her support on social media, writing: “Our moor, our tors. Thank you to everyone who went out to defend it this weekend.”
Writing in his weekly column, Devon farmer and founder of organic veg box company Riverford, Guy Singh-Watson, said: “The privatisation of shared public spaces, be they school playing fields, oceans, or national parks, tragically undermines the fabric of our society and takes us one step closer to breakdown.”
General secretary of the NGO Open Spaces Society, Kate Ashbrook, said the judgment on Dartmoor could have “a chilling effect on other open country” in England and Wales, and could generate a culture of “keep out’” notices.
“Never has it been more important for people to be able to wander freely and responsibly on open country, and to sleep under the stars, for their mental and physical health and wellbeing,” she added.
To find out more, visit righttoroam.org.uk.