The 6th Dartmoor Society Debate

The Military on Dartmoor

Buckfast Abbey, Saturday 27th September 2003

© The Dartmoor Society, 2003

Editor: Mike Hedges

The Dartmoor Society, PO Box 570, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 9JB      

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Speakers and Chair at the 6th Dartmoor Society Debate, l to r : Kate Ashbrook, John Loch, Jo Cole, Dr Tom Greeves, Martin Coulson, Lt Col (Retd) Tony Clark, Lt Col James Porter. (Photo © Mike Hedges)

 

CONTENTS

5000 Years of Military Cultural Heritage on Dartmoor    

by Dr Tom Greeves

Military Training - Society, Economy & Conservation      

by Lt Col James Porter, Lt Col (Retd) Tony Clark, Martin Coulson and John Loch

Beat the Retreat – Military off Dartmoor                            

by Kate Ashbrook

Discussion

 

On Saturday 27th September, 67 people attended the Society’s debate in the pleasant surroundings of St Cuthbert’s Conference Centre at Buckfast Abbey. Jo Cole, the Environment Correspondent of Carlton Television, chaired the debate.

A presentation by Dr Tom Greeves, archaeologist, cultural environmentalist and chairman of The Dartmoor Society, covered the history of military activity on Dartmoor as represented by surviving artefacts and objects.

Four aspects of the case for military training on Dartmoor were presented by Lt Col (Retd) Tony Clark, OBE, Commandant, Dartmoor Training Area, Martin Coulson OBE FRICS, MOD Conservation Officer, Lt Col James Porter of the Army Training Estate (deputising for Lt Col Mike Smith, who could not attend owing to a family bereavement) and John Loch, Senior Land Agent, Defence Training Estates SW.  

Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, made the case against the military presence on Dartmoor.

The morning was devoted to hearing the presentations by the speakers and to a session for delegates to raise points for clarification. After lunch, the floor was opened for discussion by delegates and speakers. The presentations of the speakers and the discussion are summarised in the following paragraphs. Views expressed are those of the speakers and delegates and not necessarily those of The Dartmoor Society.

5000 Years of Military Cultural Heritage on Dartmoor

by Dr Tom Greeves

Tom Greeves opened by saying that, as an archaeologist and cultural environmentalist, his interest is in the evidence of human activity in the landscape, of whatever period. His aim was to demonstrate, as objectively as possible, that Dartmoor bears witness to society’s concerns regarding defence and military training in times of war and peace, stretching over several thousand years. In this respect it is not significantly different from any other part of Britain except that, as with all archaeological features on Dartmoor, the evidence is generally well preserved. He left it to the participants in the debate to draw conclusions from his presentation, or to use it to support whatever arguments they put forward, either for or against (or somewhere in between) the modern use of Dartmoor for military training.

Tom began with Whittor above Peter Tavy where there are complex prehistoric defences which may date back as far as 3000 BC or even earlier.  Dartmoor also has a fine range of later prehistoric earthworks and defensive sites such as Brentor, Cranbrook Castle, Wooston Castle and others, all probably dating to the 1st millennium BC. It was unclear whether these sites were primarily defensive or whether they served other functions as market places or gathering points for moving of livestock, but they certainly appeared to have been designed by ‘military’ planners. Several smaller scale earthworks exist, such as The Trendle on the edge of Tavistock, which was occupied in the last few centuries BC and possibly later.

Late in the first millennium AD, perhaps in the 9th century, King Alfred is believed to have established a fortified town at Lydford. Its defences are still visible, and they were put to the test, probably successfully, at the time of a Viking raid in AD 997. Several castles were established round the fringes of Dartmoor within fifty years of the Norman Conquest of 1066. There is a small defensive motte, or mound, at Lydford, which in 1197 acquired a purpose-built stone prison that survives, in modified form, as the present Lydford Castle. Best-known as the stannary gaol, it was used as a war prison in medieval times, and French prisoners were held there. On the other side of the moor, a fine motte survives in Hembury Woods, set within prehistoric earthworks. The finest medieval castle on Dartmoor is that at Okehampton, which is the largest in Devon.

On a more domestic scale, in the 16th century villagers were required by law to train in archery and open spaces such as Widecombe Green were used for this purpose, its old name being ‘The Butts’. Dartmoor saw quite a lot of activity in the English Civil War of the 1640s and a cross above Fingle Bridge is traditionally said to mark the spot where a soldier was killed.

The Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s caused the building of Dartmoor Prison and of the church at Princetown. American prisoners joined those from France (actually a multitude of different nationalities) after the War of 1812. An unusual cultural landmark of this period is the ‘Honour Oak’, which was a parole boundary point on the road out to Whitchurch for officers lodged in the town.

By the mid-19th century, firing ranges were established for troops on Butterdon Hill (in about 1860) near Harford, and probably not much later at Hart Tor in the Meavy valley near Princetown. A modern military presence on Dartmoor can, with some justification, be dated from August 1873, when national manoeuvres involving thousands of men and horses, were held in mostly very poor weather on south-west and central Dartmoor.  By the end of the 19th century there was a permanent hutted camp on the edge of the moor above Okehampton railway station with regular training, including the use of field artillery, on the moor. The War Department acquired the freehold of some 3000 acres at Willsworthy in 1900 and established a rifle range there, with target tramways.  

After the horrors of the First World War, memorials were erected in many villages. Personal memorials can be found in churches, such as at Postbridge to John Webb, a soldier who was also a tin miner. Beside the River Lyd is a family memorial to Capt. Nigel Hunter of the Royal Engineers, killed in France in 1918, aged 23, and at the top of Dartmeet Hill is a cross put up to the memory of Lt. Evelyn Cave-Penney who was killed in Palestine in 1918, aged 19.

It was in the early 20th century that most of the splinter-proof observation posts (OPs) were built on northern Dartmoor, mostly out of traditional materials. Only seven (out of 21) still survive in a more or less complete state. The remainder have been demolished and reduced to a minimal archaeological state.

The Second World War brought renewed activity to Dartmoor in terms of training for frontline troops but also for the defensive home front. A specially good range of archaeological features survives from this period, such as the Rippon Tor rifle range, with its monumental brick butts. Concrete foundations at Beatland Corner near Wotter are either for an early warning system mast or possibly for anti-aircraft guns. More subtle are training trenches, such as on Mardon Down near Moretonhampstead, where they are very extensive, or near King’s Barrow above Grimspound.  An American field hospital was built on Plasterdown near Tavistock and in fact American troops trained extensively over Dartmoor alongside British troops. Wartime mortar emplacements have left subtle earthworks that have in the past been confused with prehistoric hut circles. Some of the most interesting field archaeology of this period can be found on the site of Harrowbeer Aerodrome between Yelverton and Crapstone, which was built in 1941.

In the present day, structures continue to be refurbished and military telephone ‘boxes’ can be found, as can old shell holes, now flooded and, according to ecologists, forming interesting habitats. ‘Portaloos’ seem often to be hallmarks of modern man (or woman) engaged in training!

Returning to Whittor, Tom’s last slide was of an army hut, quite recently built, but clad in stone and lurking among the rocks of a defensive site probably occupied 5000 years ago – a striking example of continuity.

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*******

Military Training - Society, Economy & Conservation

By Lt Col James Porter, Lt Col (Retd) Tony Clark, Martin Coulson and John Loch  

Lt Col James Porter said that the role of the Army Training Estate was to provide, manage, maintain and develop safe training facilities to enable the army and others to provide the military capability required by the Government. To maintain the freedom and territorial integrity of the UK and dependent territories, a deterrent is required in the form of armed forces, which must always be operationally prepared. With the fall of the Soviet bloc, the emphasis has shifted from defence against attack from the east to a UK-based force capable of deployment anywhere in the world. In fact, at present, three quarters of the Army is based in the UK – the highest proportion for over a century.

The forces’ role can vary from small-scale peacetime activities to humanitarian work and full-scale war. Forces must train hard for all these roles. Training occupies two-thirds of all MOD land and takes up 130 sites, including 51 training camps with a total of 25,000 bed spaces. Training requirements are varied and involve Army, Royal Navy, RAF and territorial personnel. A wide range of sites is used to provide training for

·         Light firing

·         Armed manoeuvres

·         Full-scale armed training

·         Fighting in built-up areas

·         Nuclear, chemical and biological warfare

The use of simulators has a place in training, but is no substitute for real life. Simulators cannot re-create physical and mental discomfort, humidity, rain, extremes of temperature, weapon handling, or developing confidence in other armed colleagues in the field.

Lt Col (Retd) Tony Clark said that a major part of his role was to advise military units on how to balance their training objectives with care for the environment. He always reminded them that it was no good defending the country if they didn’t defend its countryside. 

In the UK’s small islands, there was not the luxury of having discrete areas for military training, conservation and access.  Land had to be shared.  The present and previous governments have recognised this, as did the founding fathers of the national parks. 

Dartmoor’s terrain is ideally suited to light force training, such as the Royal Marines, Paras and others who travel principally by boot.  Tanks were used on Dartmoor in the Second World War and at the time of Suez – but they sank in the bogs. 

The reasons that members of the public enjoy Dartmoor are exactly the reasons why it provides such an ideal training area for the military - the challenging walking, the strenuous climb up the steep-sided valleys, the demanding, changeable climate, the featureless navigation, the remoteness, the lack of habitation and the support of the local people.

Dartmoor is used for training by a wide range of locally based forces:- 

  • HMS Drake, Plymouth, practises low level joint operations, military assistance to people struck by disaster and defence diplomacy.
  • HMS Raleigh, the 1700-strong training establishment, needs access to local training areas to practice skills, develop character through initiative training and to carry out tactical training.
  • Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth trains officers for the Royal Navy and needs access to rugged terrain to develop navigation, self-reliance, and leadership skills. 
  • The Commando Training Centre Royal Marines trains 7,000 personnel each year and uses Dartmoor for a wide variety of training including fitness, survival, navigation, communications and tactical training both live and dry (ie exercises without live projectiles). 
  • 3 Commando Brigade based in Plymouth has a total strength of nearly 4,000.  Elements of the Brigade are maintained at high readiness and need regular access to local training areas to keep fit, practice skills and conduct operational training. 
  • Regular Army units need variety in training to prevent staleness and over-familiarity. Light forces based outside the South West come to train on Dartmoor.
  • The South West’s Rifle Volunteers, Exeter University Officer Training Corps and other Territorial Army units use Dartmoor for a backdoor training area to enable them to practice tactics and to maintain their weapon skills. 
  • The RAF Regiment provides ground defence for deployed aircraft and crew.  They need access to local training areas to practice their tactical skills
  • Sea Cadets, Royal Marine Cadets, Army Cadets, the Air Training Corps and members of the Combined Cadet Force need to learn how to live with nature and survive and are heavily dependant on Dartmoor as their local training area.

The special qualities of Dartmoor are that it provides space for manoeuvre, it is remote, its use interferes with few people, it has demanding terrain and a challenging climate.  But above all, Dartmoor is close to where the soldiers, sailors and airmen are based.  

The MOD recognises its responsibility to support the National Park’s purpose of encouraging public access.  The present licence to conduct military training on Dartmoor reduced considerably the number of permitted live firing days on Okehampton Range.  There is now guaranteed public access to Okehampton Range (including Yes Tor and High Willhays) on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, all bank holidays, at Easter and during the months of April, May, July, August and the first half of September.  Thus public access to north Dartmoor is guaranteed for more than two thirds of the year. 

Public safety is given the highest priority.  Many methods are used to inform the public of the guaranteed public access periods and late cancellations, such as the National Park Authority’s Dartmoor Visitor, newspapers, Radio Devon and the Dartmoor Ranges web site, as well as meetings with and talks to local communities.

Standing Orders, amplified by briefings to the person responsible for the training, emphasise that the military shares Dartmoor and so must care for it and be considerate of other users.

There are on Dartmoor a number of military huts which are used by the range clearers and lookouts.  They undoubtedly intrude into Dartmoor’s landscape, particularly the square tin boxes built to replace the old shelters let into the tors.  However, they could only reasonably be removed if the risks from training were much lower.

The Dartmoor Training Area employs 22 local people, 21 farmers as clearers and many local firms as contractors.  West Devon Borough Council has calculated that the MOD puts over £7m into the local economy each year. If there were no training area in the South West, it would be difficult, if not impossible to base Service personnel who need land-based training in the South West.  From MOD researches there are no suitable alternative sites in the South West. So Dartmoor it has to be if the public is to continue its traditional support of the Armed Forces and receive the benefits of them being based in the South West.

Martin Coulson, MOD Conservation Officer, explained that less than 3% of National Park land was owned by the MOD. The MOD, as a user of that land, could however help with National Park aims by conserving the environment, promoting public engagement and contributing to social well-being. Martin acknowledged that the MOD had some way to go to reach the level of sophistication of the Forestry Commission or the National Trust, but the Association of National Park Authorities has recognised that MOD practice is much improved and making a positive contribution.

The 2002/03 report of the Army Training Estate summarises their extensive conservation activities and includes a foreword by Dr Andy Brown, the Chief Executive of English Nature, congratulating the Estate on the huge efforts of its volunteers and staff.

Martin believed that it is possible to have a balance between public access and military training. The alternatives to National Park training have been investigated, but in reality there is little suitable land available. Some training is carried out in Canada, but this is a very expensive option.

John Loch, Senior Land Agent, Defence Training Estates SW, related how a Government study in the 1880s had first identified Dartmoor as a suitable training ground. In 1883, an invitation to use parish land for training was extended by Okehampton Town Council to the military authorities. As John put it, this was before the environment was invented!

John mentioned the large number of bodies with which MOD liaises on Dartmoor, including the Commoners’ Council (not to mention 1400 Commoners), the DNPA, DEFRA and a number of self-appointed bodies. John said that this made Dartmoor something of a ‘nannied estate’, but he was keen on the arrangements as they promoted agreement and led to less work for land agents like him! He cited the example of liaison with The Dartmoor Society, from which was developed a procedure for identifying archaeological artefacts (such as wedges for splitting rocks) during range clearance.

Despite such moves, the occupation of land by the MOD can generate conflict, yet on Dartmoor, only 9.63% of the National Park is used for 23% of the time. The training area includes blanket bog, the habitat for dunlin, golden plover and, in John’s view, a large number of ‘ologists’!

A heather recovery scheme is being developed on Willsworthy Range; this will increase habitat for snipe, grouse, skylark and waders, as well as providing ideal training conditions for soldiers. Troops also benefit from the fieldcraft that comes from knowledge of wildlife – sudden movement of birds could provide early warning in certain combat situations.

Today on Dartmoor much of the former damaging activity is under control. Trench digging is now carried out on an arable estate and not on the moor. More thorough clearance of unexploded ordnance is now carried out.

John concluded by saying that funding for all the MOD’s conservation work was fine as far as it went, but it also required the enthusiasm of people like Tony Clark to make it work in practice.

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Beat the Retreat – Military off Dartmoor

By Kate Ashbrook

Kate was introduced by Debate chair, Jo Cole, who listed her roles as General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, Chairman of the Council for National Parks, President of the Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA), Chairman of the Ramblers Association Access Committee and a Member of Council of the Countryside Agency.

Kate began by explaining why the military should leave Dartmoor.  She referred to the eyesores caused by the military roads, huts, flags, poles, notices and camps; the disturbance from noise and low flying, the fact that public access was banned for much of year and that it made it difficult to regulate the grazing and to deal with fire risk because of unexploded ordnance.

Turning to the history of Dartmoor as a national park and the military occupation, Kate said that in this country there had long been a commitment to protecting wilderness which went back at least to the early nineteenth century.  Even during Second World War there were plans to preserve our top landscapes.

The report by John Dower in 1945 on National Parks in England and Wales quotes war-time debates which recognised the importance of protecting areas of natural beauty. The areas recommended by Dower for national parks included the military land of Dartmoor and the Pembrokeshire Coast.

The Report of the National Parks Committee (Hobhouse Report) of 1947 considered Dower’s proposals and recommended the designation of Dartmoor, while expressing concern about the military occupation.

Many of the military structures were unlawful because they had been built on common land without the required consent of the Minister.

The first inquiry into military use of Dartmoor opened in the summer of 1947 but that inquiry, like every other to do with military training on Dartmoor, proved to be a charade.  Even before the inquiry opened, Devon County Council had been drawn into agreeing to the use of 40,000 acres, leaving the objectors with a fait accompli.

During the inquiry the proposed boundaries of the Dartmoor National Park as recommended by the Hobhouse Committee were announced.  However, the Hobhouse report itself, which opposed military training on Dartmoor, was only released the day after the inquiry ended. 

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 followed and in 1951 Dartmoor was designated a national park despite the military presence.

The access and amenity bodies gathered evidence of military abuse and in 1963 the Dartmoor Preservation Association published a pamphlet Military misuse of Dartmoor, which exposed much of the damage to ancient monuments, the tracks and excrescences left by the military.

In 1973 the Nugent report was published.  This committee had reviewed the military landholdings in UK with view to improving access.  But no fundamental change was proposed, merely window dressing.

John Cripps, a member of the Nugent Committee, published a note of dissent for Dartmoor.  He recommended a reduction in use and a public inquiry into how the needs of the armed forces could be met elsewhere.

This led to the Sharp inquiry for Dartmoor in 1975, but this was not the inquiry Cripps had called for.  It proved to be a sham because the terms of reference were restricted to finding alternatives in the south-west of England only, which everyone knew did not exist.  So the result was more window-dressing, a few small boundary changes and the establishment of a Dartmoor steering group.

This result was despite Lady Sharp’s admission:

I accept that military training and a national park are discordant, incongruous and inconsistent

There can be no doubt that, on Dartmoor, military training is exceedingly damaging to the national park

And the military’s admission:

…these ranges have the greatest restriction of any areas in the UK 

Lt Col Lowe GSO1, HQ, SW District.

other things being equal, military training is best carried on outside national parks

Major-General Pounds, Commanding the Commando Forces Royal Marines.

So clearly national park status imposed severe restrictions on the military which was to their disadvantage too.

After this, the opponents of military use stepped up their campaign to find and report problems but this had little effect.  In 1985 once again the Duchy of Cornwall renewed the licences to the military for live firing on northern Dartmoor.

In 1991, the Edwards Report on national parks was published, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the parks.  The report took a strong line on military training.

The military use of land in the national parks is discordant, incongruous and inconsistent with national park purposes, and its discontinuance should be a long-term objective.

Live firing should be removed form national parks as quickly as possible (with Dartmoor having high priority).

Shortly after that, the Duchy renewed the licences for a further 21 years. This was particularly alarming because it was for an unprecedented length of time, just when world defence requirements were changing radically, and despite a telling report produced by the independent UK Centre for Economic and Environmental Development, Military live firing in national parks, which called for an independent inquiry into military use of national parks.

The Environment Act 1995 section 62 put a duty on relevant authorities to have regard to park purposes and this was reaffirmed by the recent review of national parks authorities in England. But there is little evidence that the Ministry of Defence actually observes this duty.

Kate then set out why the organisations she represented, and many thousands of visitors to Dartmoor, wanted the military off the moor.

The military presence creates eyesores, such as prominent huts and flagpoles on the skyline, rows of poles and notices.  The military roads are themselves ugly but, worse still, are used by civilian cars penetrating far into the wilderness where no cars should be.  The military create ugly tracks, they leave rubbish, they erect portaloos, and generally suburbanise and degrade the wilderness.

On public access, she pointed out that the military hog the ranges for many more days than they actually need them.  In 2002, firing was advertised on 400 days, but only took place on 276, so on more than three days out of every five the public could have used the ranges had they known they were free.

There is the risk of fire which cannot be controlled because of the danger of unexploded missiles.  She also challenged the military claims that they helped create biodiversity, conserve the habitat and regulate grazing, arguing that we didn’t need the military for that.

Although the military argue that their presence generates jobs and income, Kate put the other side.  Tourism also generates a huge income, and she quoted recent figures for the South West Coast Path (£300 million a year, supporting 7,500 jobs) and from a Ramblers’ Association report (walkers generate £2.7 billion in England each year, supporting 250,000 jobs).  We needed a proper study into the economic aspects of military training.

So what was to be done?  The Duchy licences to the military expire on 29 September 2012 and it is not too early to start preparing for the military’s departure.  The Duchy and the national park authority should signal to the military as soon as possible that the licences would not be removed. That would precipitate a wide-ranging inquiry into military needs and land use. Such an inquiry should not be restricted to the south-west, or even to England but should be on a global scale, looking at alternative methods of training too.

Dartmoor is a unique, wild landscape.  For the thousands who love this place, it provides inspiration and rejuvenation, peace and tranquillity and freedom for body and spirit.  It deserves to be treated with love and respect.  Dartmoor has always been denied a proper, independent, wide-ranging inquiry into its use by the military.  Now is the time to promote such an inquiry. 

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*****

Following the presentations, delegates had the opportunity to raise matters which they felt needed some clarification. In summary, these were:-

Quentin Morgan-Edwards asked if Nick Atkinson, Chief Executive of the Dartmoor National Park Authority, could clarify the DNPA’s position on military training. Nick, who was present as a delegate, confirmed that their long term vision was to remove live firing from the National Park, for the reasons cited by Kate Ashbrook. In a public consultation exercise carried out by DNPA, only 34% of the public supported this stance; generally local people supported the military presence, while those living further away did not. Nick said that the DNPA’s objective is to pursue the principle of ultimate withdrawal, maximising public access and minimising the impact of training in the interim.

Ru Roberts asked if there were alternatives elsewhere in the UK, such as Scotland or Northern Ireland. Martin Coulson said that other private sites have been examined for training suitability, but are very few, because of the need to train with equipment and live firing.

Chris Roberts asked how many deaths there had been due to live firing. Tony Clark said that, from recollection, there had been five since World War 2 and two injured children on Great Mis Tor in 1995. His staff had worked hard on clearing the northern moor from unexploded ordnance; explosions only occur when ordnance is interfered with.

Dinie Brickl asked whether it would be possible to publicise dry training in advance, so that horse riders could avoid these areas and the risk of their animals bolting through being frightened. Tony Clark said that, at present, this is difficult with the way dry training is organised. Soldiers and helicopter pilots are briefed about the risk to horses; he asks pilots to treat horses as if they were ant-aircraft batteries and avoid them!

Anne Whitbourn said she was surprised that areas outside the firing ranges are at risk from unexploded ordnance being present and asked where the other at-risk areas are. Tony Clark said that during World War 2, the whole moor was used for live firing and no areas could be confirmed as being 100% free of ordnance. However, the risk outside the firing ranges is tiny; suspect objects should not be touched, but reported.

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After an enjoyable lunch, the afternoon was dedicated to a wide-ranging discussion among delegates and speakers of the many issues surrounding military training on the moor. Jo Cole did a fine job in chairing this discussion and it is pleasing to report that there was no acrimony, let alone open warfare!

The first point raised in the afternoon was the future of training and how, in one delegate’s view, the type of war fought is often different to that trained for. However, Tim Morris said that he had trained on Dartmoor and endorsed its suitability for his subsequent service in the Falklands War.

Several delegates said that the time is now ripe for an independent public inquiry into military training on Dartmoor. Nick Atkinson said that this is also DNPA policy.

Helen Rowett said that Dartmoor could not be treated as a vacuum where nothing happens. Problems would arise through non-use of the moor, eg excessive growth of scrub. Dr Tom Greeves said that the military add diversity to the moor; mining and peat cutting have gone and only hill-farming and military use remain. He asked why the military should be treated as separate from everyone else. Since 1995, national parks were obliged to take account of social well-being. The military should be seen as part of society, contributing to the cultural heritage of Dartmoor.

Tony Clark said he believed that responsibilities exist to the whole countryside, not just national parks. The key question is the extent to which the military should share land with others. Kate Ashbrook said that national park ideals should be replicated in all parts of the countryside.

Bernard Raeke raised his concerns about the noise from low-flying military aircraft. Tony Clark said that much of the UK has a low-flying ban. Training has to include ground-hugging flight, but orders prohibit flying below 250 feet. Random checks are made and pilots who contravene this order have been court-martialled. If a live firing exercise is to involve more than four helicopters, this is stated on the firing notice.

Both Jack Howe and Dr David Keeling said that they walk regularly on Dartmoor and have never been troubled in any way by the presence of the military.

Dr David Keeling asked what ordnance is fired on Dartmoor. Tony Clark said that it comprised 5.56mm rifle bullets, 7.62mm machine gun rounds, a small amount of light mortar fire and about 0.5% was heavy mortar fire. Artillery is not encouraged and can only fire smoke or illuminating shells. A small arms round can travel 3000 metres and allowance has to made for ricochets in planning an exercise. For example, an exercise based at Holming Beam requires the whole of the area from Baggator to Cut Hill to be closed for safety purposes.

Rob Steemson (DNPA Head Ranger) said that the relationship between the MOD and the National Park is very good and complaints about the military are diminishing. Much good conservation work is happening on the firing ranges. He also said that greater notice of live firing, say two months, would make planning Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme exercises (which involve 2000 young people annually on Dartmoor) much easier. Tony Clark said that this was a fair comment, but at present three weeks advance notice is normal for planning procedures. Guaranteed clear days are publicised well in advance. Access to Fur Tor and Cut Hill will shortly be increased, after a forthcoming amendment to byelaws.

Graham Wall, Chief Planner for the Dartmoor National Park, said that while Dartmoor has a population of 33,500, people are largely excluded from living in many European national parks. Unlike Kate Ashbrook, he believed that the MOD/DNPA Steering Group works well. Tony Clark said that this Steering Group is a very important part of his working life. He prepares hard for it and sees it as a twice-yearly test of how well he is doing his job. It is a means of bringing the MOD to account.

Tom Greeves asked why there appears to be a proliferation of ‘portaloos’ on Dartmoor. Tony Clark said that these have to be put out during exercises next to tracks and removed afterwards. The contractor used is currently under pressure to remove them more promptly. He would welcome any better ideas for removing human faeces, while complying with health and safety regulations. Perhaps hessian screens and ‘portapotties’ are one answer!

On this high note (?!), the debate closed.

Our thanks go to Jo Cole for chairing the event and to the speakers for all their hard work in preparing their presentations and giving up their Saturday to help make the day a success.

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