Sam Wollaston’s article on camping in Dartmoor (‘Doctors should prescribe it!’: the joys of wild camping – and why it is under threat in England, 5 July) reminded me of our July 1974 honeymoon, partly spent hiking and wild camping on Dartmoor. The walking was invigorating, the views spectacular – and there was excitement.
As a local (I grew up in Tavistock on the western edge of the moor), I knew to check at the local police station for any planned military exercises. So I asked, and was told that there were none on the dates in question.
We were then alarmed to wake in our tent on the second night to the sound of helicopters overhead, skies lit with flares and the sound of not-too-distant gunfire. Were we on the set of a war film? Were the police misinformed? We never found out, but needless to say, we survived unscathed and lived to tell the tale.
The wild camping was blissful, with only the occasional Dartmoor pony to surprise our skinny-dipping in streams. Heather made a fragrant mattress beneath our groundsheet. Enjoy the unique beauty of Dartmoor as you wild camp, but stay alert at night.
• Your article immediately took me back to the 1960s, when “wild camping” was the norm. We Girl Guides set up camp in a field at the bottom of Easby Moor in North Yorkshire. It was close to a railway line, and the train driver would play Come to the Cookhouse Door on the horn. It rained continuously and a couple of bell tents slithered down the field to the fence, their occupants inside. My most abiding memory was being woken up in the dark in great pain. My hair was being pulled, and a monster was trying to eat my head. A curious cow, munching grass, got more than she bargained for.
• I was surprised to read in Sam Wollaston’s article that wild camping is not permitted in Wales at all, and only on Dartmoor in England. In my younger days, after years of doing just that, I applied for training as a mountain leader. My initial training and final assessment, each of two weeks, were undertaken in the Lake District and Snowdonia respectively. The British Mountaineering Council syllabus required a three-day mountain walk with two camps at high level before a certificate was awarded. How can potential leaders be assessed now?
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