chapter  4
7 Pages


Dartmoor is in many ways a perfect example of an English ‘wilderness’, and the term is frequently used in promotional literature for visitors to the National Park. The area of the Park, at 950 km2 holds virtually the entire ‘natural area’ of the Dartmoor massif, consisting of high moor to above 500 m, river valleys and woodland.1 This ‘wilderness’ has several roads crossing the central parts (see Colour Plate 4), and the National Park as a whole attracts over 2 million visitors per year. It is an area of upland heath, grass moor and blanket bog, drained by steeply inclined river valleys containing some of the most extensive ancient oak woodland in England. This area is less ‘wild’ than the Rhinogydd in Wales (which are of comparable size), and much less remote than the Caledonian forest in Glen Affric. The moors are subject to heavy recreational pressure from visitors holidaying in the many hotels, centres and camping sites on the periphery. In addition to recreational use, extensive areas of common land support high numbers of cattle, sheep and ponies; there are also large areas subject to military training, reservoirs for water supply and some small areas of commercial forestry.