Moments in Dartmoor's History

Moments in Dartmoor's History


30 October marks the 70th birthday of Dartmoor National Park.


Postbridge Visitor Centre is refurbished and opened, marking a fresh chapter in how people discover Dartmoor’s heritage.


Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act gives walkers rights to roam on more areas of the open countryside.


A free-standing Authority (governing body) replaces the original County Council National Park Committee. It has 26 members all appointed by local authorities or the Secretary of State for their particular experience or knowledge.


The boundary of Dartmoor National Park was amended following a lengthy review process. Sticklepath village and a few areas around the National Park’s margin are included, whilst Lee Moor and all existing china clay workings in south west Dartmoor are excluded from the National Park.


The Dartmoor Commons Byelaws come into effect. Rangers now had legal powers to help regulate the general public’s use of the common land.


Okehampton bypass officially opens.


Work on Okehampton bypass begins.


The passing of the Dartmoor Commons Act in 1985, which safeguards the interests of the moor and opens it to public access. The Act creates a new Dartmoor Commoners’ Council with powers to regulate grazing on the moor.

July 1985

The Government introduces its intention to reverse the Parliamentary Joint Committee’s decision and confirm the route through the National Park. Legislation introduced. After passing through the House of Commons and House of Lords, the route through the National Park is confirmed.


Range of organisations including DNPC petition parliament over bypass plans. A Parliamentary Joint Committee is set up to consider the matter. It concludes incursion into the National Park are not justified.


Inquiry decision on Okehampton bypass endorses the southern option. The Dartmoor National Park Committee records ‘its grave dismay that the Government’s commitment to keeping trunk roads outside National Parks should be so easily set aside’.


The Wildlife and Countryside Act is passed. It is first comprehensive protection of listed species and habitats and includes conservation schemes like Countryside Stewardship.


The National Park’s head office is established at Parke, Bovey Tracey, and remains there to this day. A 96 day public inquiry into plans for a bypass at Okehampton finishes in February 1980.


The first National Park (Management) Plan appears. Rippon Tor firing range closes.


Public consultation on bypass at Okehampton. Three routes considered: two to the north of Okehampton, through agricultural land, and one to the south through part of the National Park. Dartmoor National Park Committee objects to the southern option.


The Local Government Act of 1972 leads to the appointment of the first National Park Officer, Ian Mercer, who held the position until 1990.


Meldon Reservoir, the last reservoir to open on Dartmoor, officially opens.


Parliament refuses permission for a proposed reservoir at Swincombe; something vociferously opposed by many, including passionate environmentalist, Lady Sylvia Sayer the Chair of Dartmoor Preservation Association.


The Countryside Act imposes a duty on every minister, government department and public body to have "due regard for conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside".


Proposals for a bypass at Okehampton first mooted.


The first Head Warden (Ranger), is appointed. Duties include recruiting volunteers, opening and signing paths, removing eyesores and much more.


Dartmoor National Park’s annual expenditure is £12,000 per year and there are five full time members of staff working on national park matters.


A television mast is built at North Hessary Tor, Princetown, despite impassioned objections from Dartmoor Preservation Association and the Campaign for Rural England. An appeal against the decision failed.


Dartmoor is designated as a National Park on 30 October. Devon County Council creates a committee to manage the work that went with it.


On 16 December, the Government passed the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act setting up the Countryside Commission, the Nature Conservancy Council (now both Natural England) and 10 national parks.


The Hobhouse Report suggests 12 potential national parks. The new Town & Country Planning Act sets up a land-use planning system which includes national parks.


John Dower publishes a report on national parks. The Dower Report suggests how national parks could work in England and Wales. A National Parks Committee is established, chaired by Sir Arthur Hobhouse.


The voluntary Standing Committee of National Parks, later the Council for National Parks, is set up.


On January 24, around 50 inmates at Dartmoor Prison stage a mutiny as a cover for an unsuccessful escape plan. It is eventually quelled by police supported by soldiers from Stonehill Barracks, Plymouth. Elsewhere, on 24 April, 400 ramblers staged a mass protest at Kinder Scout in the Peak District. The Rights of Way Act is passed.


The Addison Report recommends there should be a National Parks Committee to select the most appropriate areas.


Ramsay MacDonald sets up enquiry to investigate whether national parks in the UK would be a good idea. Burrator Reservoir, completed in 1898, is expanded.


Quarrying ceases at Haytor.

1880s – 1900s

The Victorian era saw interest in Dartmoor for recreation grow and people started to see the landscape as inspiration for paintings or stories.


The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty (now the National Trust) is established with purposes like those which National Parks have today.


The world's first national park is established at Yellowstone, USA which was, in part, inspired by visionary Scotsman John Muir.