To all inTENTS …. (oh, come on – that’s a good one!)

Could this be the ‘Supreme Court TV’ event of 2024 (or 2025 … these things take time!)? Darwall v Dartmoor National Park Authority, the big Dartmoor ‘wild camping’ case has not quite gone away: leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been granted. Get the snacks ordered!

If you need a bit of a memory-refresh, this was the case about camping on Dartmoor, and whether access on foot or horseback for the purposes of outdoor recreation also meant that one could do a spot of wild camping. (And, if you need help with the terminology, Underhill LJ informed us, in the CA, that ‘wild camping is …a modish phrase which I understand to mean camping overnight in a place which is not a dedicated campsite.’ Not often that I could be described as ‘modish’, but there we are.

Anyway, the case is obviously a big deal, in terms of the limits on landowners’ powers to exclude, and people’s rights of access to the countryside and nature (albeit one which was in fact argued on the less-inspiring ground of statutory construction/interpretation, and not the big principles).

In between the Court of Appeal decision (a win for those wanting wild camping to be allowed) and the present, we have had some fluctuation in the political will to change the law on this more generally: Labour had been in favour of expanding access in England and Wales in this way, but has now retreated on it, concerned, presumably, about possible impact upon electoral chances, and not wanting to appear too radical.

I called the CA decision incorrectly, so am wary of trying with this one… we shall see. It has all become very much tied up with questions about what information about the background of statutes can be brought into consideration, and how to deal with provisions which cut down the rights of the landowner.

I see that the Darwalls’ top barrister remains the same – will we see further poetic allusions? Will there be judicial sniffing at ‘modish’ terminology, and further debates as to whether a person in a tent is indoors or outdoors …?

And who will be protesting at the end of this final round of pheasant v. peasant?




Image: a tent with an open door – indoors, outdoors … you decide!

Photo by Samuel Girven on Unsplash