The battle for Hillyfield

Hillyfield is a 45 acre woodland on the southern edge of Dartmoor, it was bought in 2010 by Doug King-Smith who is in the process of bringing this semi-derelict woodland back to life. He and his family have begun the task of managing this woodland using eco-friendly sustainable principles, felling the Phytophthora infected larch trees, promoting native broadleaves and selling them for timber and firewood to organisations such as the National Trust. He has gone to long lengths to make this a community based project involving local people in the dying art of traditional woodland management and the ancient crafts associated with it.


In order to achieve these objectives there is a need for some infrastructure i.e. a few buildings to store equipment, a wood drying barn, a small kitchen to feed the volunteers in and a yurt to shelter them along with a couple of compost toilets. The Dartmoor National Park Authority have taken exception to this and have issued enforcement orders to remove them thus jeopardising the entire future of the project.

As a result Hillyfield has been forced to organise a crowd-funding campaign to pay for a barrister to fight the DNPA – see here. The irony is that the DNPA supports sustainable woodland management and therefore ought to be helping the Hillyfield project and not threatening its very existence. To add insult to injury the ‘contentious’ structures are only visible to those who are actually in the wood.

The campaign is supported by a number of influential people such as the Totnes visionary and founder of the Transition movement Rob Hopkins, Rob Penn the author of the excellent book “The man who made things out of trees” and Rupert Lane who is now an independent forestry consultant and was formerly the DNPA’s forest advisor.

2 primrose flowers


On Sunday this story was featured in the Observer – see here and previously my friend and fellow Dartmoor commentator Matthew Kelly (the author of Quartz and Feldspar) has written in support of the King-Smiths – see here.

This link gives advice for small woodland owners on planning issues – see here and to be honest what the King-Smiths want to do should be possible. If the DNPAs own internal guidance and policies won’t allow it then the DNPA need to re-visit their own policies because Hillyfield is the actual on the ground embodiment of what they actually want to see happen in the National Park.

I urge you to support the Hillyfield campaign and their crowd-funding appeal – follow this link.

The DNPA is in grave danger of creating a national park conserved in aspic celebrating an era of abandonment which I know is the opposite of what they really want. It is time for flexibility, some sensible interpretation of policies, compromise and shared goals and not a battle royal which will ruin reputations and waste everyone’s time and money.


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