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Forbidden Britain – Dartmoor

August 5, 2012

Despite being a National Park, Dartmoor throws up some very bad examples as far as access is concerned.

Vixen Tor – the highest free-standing rock on the Moor – has been closed off by the present owner for a dozen years, despite there being a long tradition of free access for generations. It baffles me that someone can buy a prominent Dartmoor landmark and then close it down. The same owner closed Merrivale newtake, a vast stretch of moorland, some years ago, when her paid access agreement ran out. Fortunately, that got mapped under the CRoW Act and you can now walk there freely.

It will be interesting to see what the campaigning groups intend to do next to restore public access to Vixen Tor. 

Bel Tor: This lovely tor, part of the Spitchwick Estate and near to Poundsgate, has been closed to the public for about 2o years, though it doesn’t, as far as I am aware, have the intimidating notices of Vixen Tor. It is a fascinating rock pile with some interesting rock basins.

Holne Chase: This medieval hunting ground of some 300 acres, again part of the Spitchwick Estate, has never been properly opened to the public in recent years. It is a beautiful woodland, with scenic rides above a very dramatic section of the River Dart. Apart from the beauty of its oakwoods, it has an Iron Age hill fort and Victorian mining relics. I have to confess myself utterly baffled as to just why, recently, the Dartmoor Preservation Association – a body whose constitution supposedly upholds free access to Dartmoor – had conservation parties working for the benefit of the landowner, but has done nothing to regain public access. Cosying up to landowners at the expense of Dartmoor ramblers is unsavoury.

Pixies Holt: I have mentioned this little cave in past blogs. A generation ago, people walked there quite freely. Now access is discouraged, not only by the tenant – I believe that Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall is the actual landowner – but by the Dartmoor National Park Authority, a body which quite frequently forgets just why National Parks were created.

These are just a few examples of access problems in an area where such conflicts never arose for previous generations of walkers.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2012 11:54 pm

    Hi John,
    The Vixen Tor is a very longstanding and hard-argued issue – the BMC have been chasing it for years for rock-climbing access – didn’t know Bel Tor access was denied though…

  2. August 6, 2012 7:09 am

    I think – the last time I looked – that there are at least a dozen tors, albeit minor ones, with no public access.

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