Dartmoor beauty spot begins to recover after emergency powers invoked after littering, human waste and 100 fire-pit

Saturday 12th September 2020 3:00 pm
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Bellever/Riddon Ridge on Dartmoor (Image Dartmoor National Park Authority) ()

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NATURE and wildlife are starting to recover at a much-loved Dartmoor beauty spot after emergency powers had been imposed to reduce fly camping and anti-social behaviour.

Back in August The Dartmoor National Park Authority was forced to introduce a short-term ban on camping at Bellever/Riddon Ridge to protect public health, nature and wildlife. That has now been lifted.

Bellever/Riddon Ridge was particularly affected by littering, human waste and 100 fire-pits dug into the ground, which was damaging archaeology and habitats and was creating another, avoidable, health hazard.

That ban came to an end on September 2 and the ground where fire-pits were dug out has been repaired by Rangers and it is starting to grow back.

The risk of human damage to nationally important Bronze Age artefacts such as hut circles has also reduced, with the atmosphere at the Bellever/Riddon Ridge area now allowing walkers, families and nature lovers able to enjoy the area without encountering litter or public health hazards.

Dartmoor Rangers and Marshals will continue to patrol the area including at weekends, and while that is the case, people are urged to not camp in the area while it continues to recover.

Dartmoor National Park Authority’s Director for Conservation and Communities Alison Kohler said: ‘We are pleased that people listened, acted and did not camp here.

‘This has been a fantastic joint effort working closely with Forestry England and with the support of many visitors and residents. We would like to thank everyone who has offered help.

‘As a result the area is recovering, but there is still a long way to go and we must not undo all of the good work. We hope people come here and enjoy this beautiful space for the day but if anyone wants to stay overnight then they should book a place to stay or use a designated campsite.

‘Dartmoor is a protected landscape that is here for everyone to enjoy. We will not hesitate to use the powers again to ensure it remains protected and that everyone can enjoy it safely and without experiencing the issues we saw this summer.’

A spokesman for the National Park said that since the easing of pandemic restrictions in England, Dartmoor has welcomed many visitors who want to enjoy its unique places and space, but there had also been a significant increase in the numbers of people camping overnight in large tents, motorhomes and camper vans, many in breach of National Park byelaws.

Bellever/Riddon Ridge was particularly affected by littering, human waste and 100 fire-pits dug into the ground, they said, but added that the extra powers and patrols – introduced under the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985, to deter large numbers of people treating the area as an informal campsite and enable the beauty spot time to recover – had an immediate and positive effect and the numbers of campers dropped overnight.

‘Local people and Dartmoor Rangers noticed wildlife returning to the river and local livestock were able to graze in a human waste/plastic-free environment,’ they said, adding the action was supported by Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez, landowner the Duchy of Cornwall, Natural England  and the Forestry Commission which manages Bellever Forest.

Tim Powles, Forestry England Community Ranger, said: ‘After escalating damage and anti-social behaviour, the recent action is restoring Bellever to the beautiful corner of Dartmoor that people love and we are proud to help care for.

‘Nature is quick to reclaim the space we give it and it is wonderful to see day visitors enjoying the peace and beauty of the moor – and leaving no trace. The time, money, and team work are all worth it to see the landscape improving, and I hope we can rely on the public to support Bellever’s ongoing recovery.’

Navigation/camping specialists and authors Two Blondes Walking said: ‘When done in the right way, wild or backpack camping on Dartmoor is a wonderful experience and an absolute privilege.

‘Most campers understand how to look after the moor and appreciate its more lonely spaces. Education and communication are the keys to helping the remaining few understand exactly what is expected.

‘Our National Park Rangers are brilliant at this but we can all do our bit to spread the right messages. With miles of open space and a fantastic range of campsites Dartmoor has plenty to offer all of its visitors. By working together we can make sure Dartmoor stays beautiful for generations to come.’

Discussing the recovery at the latest Dartmoor National Park Authority meeting, Peter Harper, deputy chairman of the authority, said: ‘The marshals at Bellever have been well received. Our rangers have been trying to make it right, and now families are there enjoying the spot rather than having to stay out of the way of the rubbish.’

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