ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Places Not to Camp On Dartmoor

Updated on October 13, 2010

Dartmoor Swaling

When walking on the High Moor throughout the year, it’s not uncommon to stumble across the odd tent, camper van or RV, carefully tucked away to afford most protection from the wind and prying eyes. What could be better than to find yourself a slice of Moorland wilderness to set up temporary home in. However, I offer a word of caution; the question is not which areas of Dartmoor should be avoided, but when to avoid those areas.

There is a tradition in this wild and beautiful landscape known as ‘swaling,’ which takes place during the winter and spring, so any time from October through to April. Farmers, or community groups who tend to the Moor have the right to swale land, meaning that they set fire to it in order to clear the Moor of heather, gorse, bilberry and brambles. The tradition goes back hundreds of years and is one that is hotly defended by hill farmers.


The Dartmoor National Park Authority sets out strict rules governing swaling, but there are numerous ‘out of control’ fires annually.  Technically, swaling is allowed between October and April, although most fires are set after the New Year, with many taking place during brighter, drier weather in late winter and early spring; just the sort of weather one might consider taking a hike and camping out on the high moor.  Fires should not be started after sunset, but most seem to be set during the late afternoon, thus continuing to burn into the dark hours.

 Land should not be swaled at weekends or public holidays, if possible, and there should be sufficient equipment and people to hand should the fire become out of control.  Before swaling, the person intending to set the fire should inform the Police, Fire Chief, Natural England (as some moorland is of special scientific interest) and the Dartmoor National Park, and there are strict rules governing how much land may be burnt and how often.

Because swaling has such a strong tradition and is greeted as a time of celebration (locals tell of whole villages turning out with food and drink to celebrate the swale) the rules tend to be ignored and many unofficial fires are set; it is these that tend to burn out of control and keep the local fire crews so busy (with some risk to their safety, of course). On dry, bright late winter days it is possible to stand on the high Moor and see fires burning on tors all around, which looks (and smells) spectacular but would be unnerving if planning to camp out.

Such unofficial fires also play havoc with wildlife, particularly those fires set after the deadline of 31st March, when ground nesting birds are preparing to breed. Dartmoor is home to adders, common lizards, skylarks, stonechats and curlews, creatures that are in decline elsewhere and which are most affected by these illegal fires. I particularly remember the gruesome sight (to me anyway) of an adder burned to a crisp a couple of years ago, it's body frozen in writhing agony as it had tried to escape the flames.

These illegal fires tend to burn far greater areas of Moorland too, as they are so vigourously out of control, leaving vast areas of blackened landscape, looking like something after the apocalypse.

 Those amongst us who are hardy and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the outdoor life during the winter months, when there are fewer tourists should be aware that there are areas of Dartmoor to be avoided by campers, particularly during the swaling season; if your nose catches a whiff of bonfire and the sky has a weird orange glow, it may be time to find a B&B for the night.

Dartmoor swaling


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Georgina_writes profile imageAUTHOR

      Georgina Crawford 

      8 years ago from Dartmoor

      Pamela99 - Thank you. we do some strange stuff in devon!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I enjoyed reading this interesting hub. it was lovely.

    • Georgina_writes profile imageAUTHOR

      Georgina Crawford 

      8 years ago from Dartmoor

      Thanks HealthyHanna. Dartmoor is a real tourist spot, but luckily it's pretty wild andthere's room for everyone.

    • HealthyHanna profile image


      8 years ago from Utah

      Beautiful! This is one place in the world didn't know existed.

    • Georgina_writes profile imageAUTHOR

      Georgina Crawford 

      8 years ago from Dartmoor

      sanyspider & hello, hello - glad you enjoyed it.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      That is a lovely and interesting hub, Georgina. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Interesting hub.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)