New MoD guidelines?

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    Has anyone else seen this on the forums?

    From the way I read it, it looks like the MoD have now banned all geocaches from being placed on firing ranges and will be looking to remove all currently sited on them.

    But surely they can’t do this on Dartmoor? For a start, they don’t actually own the land, and secondly the art of searching for plastic containers under rocks has been existing as Letterboxing for decades.

    I know there was the issue of a young girl who tragically lost her life on Gt. Mis Tor ten years ago when searching for a letterbox, but I can’t recall any issues since they outlawed using ammo boxes as containers? Health and safety gone mad.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    Thanks Clownpunchers for bringing this to our attention. This would indeed be a major blow to geocaching on Dartmoor. No sooner do I manage to get agreement on caches in SSSIs when we are hit by another problem – or should I say challenge.

    I will of course be taking this up with the DNPA first thing on Monday morning. They actively encourage geocaching and it will be interesting to see if they know anything about this. I will also contact the Duchy of Cornwall – as they own most of the land the MoD use.

    However, the forum does say “At the moment they have not asked for any caches currently in place to be removed but this could change.”

    As you correctly point out the MoD doesn’t own either Merrivale or Okehampton, but they do own Willsworthy. Clearly they cannot ban geocaches but allow letterboxes, so it will be interesting to hear what the letterboxing folk have to say about this. It would be a very good opportunity to work together with them.

    I will use this forum to keep everybody up to date, so please watch this space.


    This is a concern and ought to be a concern to the tourism bodies. Plenty of us come to Dartmoor exclusively for caching or letterboxing- read the logs from cachers from away and you will see plenty of comments like”the rest of the series will have to wait until my next visit”.

    In some ways Dartmoor ranges are unique. I cannot imagine trying to put a cache on the Sennybridge military range just next door to me. Indeed in areas such as Sennybridge or Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire, this is already policy. There is no public access at all.

    As said, there is a considerable logistic nightmare to enforce this. About the only bit of the high Brecon Beacons that it has been possible to place a cache on is the eastern half of the Penyfan massif which is owned by the Honourable Artillery Company. They are a territorial unit but own property themselves. Is that military land? There is only low-intensity training there- basically yomping over it. And HAC and their agents have proved themselves to be pro activities such as geocaching by granting permission.

    Avatar photofinderman

    This is terrible news. Dartmoor is one of Britain’s last proper wilderness’ . It’s bad enough that the north moors aren’t accessible every day. Now this!!? Maybe it’s a secret government plot to drive people off the moors and make it even more military. The government have done it before. Look at Tyneham in Dorset. There’s a village on Salisbury plain where they moved everyone out too. In the 70’s they moved a whole community off Diego Garcia island to turn it into a military base. There are no inhabitants on the north moor so if the govt/mod wanted to they could probably ban walkers completely. This could be the first step. Watch out letter boxers….

    Avatar photoreb10

    Its not just the north moor that could be affected, the military’s use of the Cramber tor area has recently been extended by another 40 years. Yes its only dry training but surely any security concerns would be the same.

    Avatar photodartymoor

    Interesting times, and all that. GAGB’s announcement, then quick resolution, make it unclear what they did on our behalf.

    To be fair, maybe there was nothing they could do.

    By the letter of that, “not on MOD land”, if Groundspeak refuse caches on land not owned by MOD, merely leased “NON-EXCLUSIVELY” by them, they should be allowed. But GS traditionally have little spirit in negotiating on behalf of cachers in the UK.

    I visited the letterboxing forums and saw no mention of this, so posted a thread highlighting it;

    What next? I will be contacting DNPA and Groundspeak, and if I can get a contact for anyone at the MOD who may have influence, them too. And of course spreading the word.

    Geocachers are an easy target (military metaphor!) as we can be shut down by one rule and groundspeak will accept it. My thoughts are that letterboxers (many of whom also cache) have far more power than cachers given their long history and decentralisation.

    This is a stupid, blinkered and arrogant decision by the MOD that shows no sign of consultation, negotiation or consideration of the public they share land with. Risking a political view, I’m sick of my personal freedoms being removed over and over again in the name of anti-terrorism.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    I totally agree with what dartymoor says, particularly with regard to getting the letterboxing community on side. However, I have already spoken to somebody connected with the 100 Club and they were totally disinterested. They kept saying that they couldn’t help me (even though the person was also a geocacher) and didn’t seem to grasp the likely implication for letterboxing. They somehow thought that they would be immune. It will be interesting to see what the post on the letterboxing forum produces.

    As for GAGB, they seem to pull the strings and the UK Groundspeak reviewers seem to jump. I don’t understand that relationship at all. Perhaps somebody could enlightened me – I guess there is a history somewhere?

    Also, can somebody from OpenCaching please give a view on this.

    Avatar photofinderman

    I’d love to know what the trigger was for this decision by the MOD. Why now? What is the reason. Is it possible there is someone inside the MOD that is anti Geocaching? If so Why?
    It’s devastating news. You have so many great caches out on the moors Dave. I hope this can be overturned at least on Dartmoor as a special case. I can understand the idea of Tupperware outside a military base being a no no. Such as the controlled explosion outside HMS Drake this week, but that is not a concern on the moors. Geocaching doesn’t interfere with The military, nature or history.


    a. National Security – It is not appropriate to encourage people to leave or conceal (marked or unmarked) packages on any part of the MOD estate as it contradicts all security procedures and could lead to false security alerts.

    I agree, do any of you not.


    Reading it again, I think the new rule can only apply to land the MoD owns (i.e. one of the three Dartmoor Ranges) and that the geocaching powers that be have jumped the gun somewhat, as per usual. This is sometimes why I wish Dartmoor had it’s own body (such as letterboxing) as it such a special case, rather than abiding by the central rules which are not tailored to our situation (e.g. over a century of letterboxing, one of the last wildernesses in the UK, the land not belonging to the MoD and historical public access).

    I think the issue has to be one of land ownership, really, which is fair enough. If the MoD does not want caches on it’s land (Willsworthy) then that has to be respected, although since the MoD is a public body and I can see no benefits in denying the sport, then I am strongly opposed to this.

    It hurts the military’s public relations, and I know of many people who went on to serve in the forces only after a lot of time spent on the moors in younger years.

    National security can apply to areas on or near bases I would agree, but to apply that to Dartmoor as a whole is absolutely ludicrous. There have been no incidences of “suspicious packages” on the moor, and neither will there ever be, they are well aware of letterboxing/geocaching.

    As a side note, it is disappointing that geocaching and letterboxing communities on the moor are so distant from each other, as many people do both. When I meet people letterboxing on the moor they are the nicest people, and yet there seems to be some resentment by certain individuals of geocaching.

    Avatar photofinderman

    What are you saying Plymbridge runner? You don’t agree with containers Letterbox or Geocache placed inside the military areas of Dartmoor. This has happened for years with no problems. A terrorist group would not even consider walking out onto the moor in mainly wet conditions to place a device which at worst take out a few sheep.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    A quick update:

    I’ve had an exchange of emails with Chis (Graculus) mainly pointing out that the MOD don’t own two of the ranges and asking him to amend his map. Most people seem to think that the Groundspeak reviewers have jumped the gun here without having been represented at the negotiations themselves and clearly GAGB have done us no favours at all.

    I think the law of natural justice applies here “The right to a fair hearing requires that individuals should not be penalized by decisions affecting their rights or legitimate expectations unless they have been given prior notice of the case, a fair opportunity to answer it, and the opportunity to present their own case. The mere fact that a decision affects rights or interests is sufficient to subject the decision to the procedures required by natural justice. In Europe, the right to a fair hearing is guaranteed by Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is said to complement the common law rather than replace it.

    I never thought I would be quoting the European Convention on Human Rights 😉


    Finderman* you talk about secret government plots and how devastating the news is, do you not feel that you are being slightly melodramatic here. We are after all only talking about a few little boxes here.

    Your comment about the wet putting people off is ridiculous. I am off to the moors now, to find some letterboxes.

    Avatar photofinderman

    You have just turned a debate, a conversation about geocaching on dartmoor into a attack. I don’t appreciate you calling my comments ridiculous. You’ve just shown your true colours on this forum. I’m not talking about a few boxes here. It goes deeper than that. This is about the rights of people who use the moors.
    It’s great that you are off to find letter boxes in the ‘wet’. But don’t always assume you will have that privilege forever.
    We need to stand united letterboxers and geocachers.
    I spent 8 years in the Army and have trained regularly on Dartmoor. I’ve always seen Dartmoor as a place to be shared by the public and the military. That mutual understanding needs to continue.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    Can I just ask that we don’t turn this forum into a vehicle for personal attacks.

    As ex-Army, finderman’s views are very relevant and I think we all agree that we need to stand united with out letterboxing friends to protect our respective hobbies. He rightly points out that this goes much deeper than plastic boxes.


    I for one hope that both Dartymoor and Dartmoor Dave will come up trumps in talking to the DNPA and the Duchy, and like to thank them for doing that on our behalf!

    Avatar photoreb10

    Maybe the problem is with geocaching itself?
    At a guess i would say 70 – 80% of caches on the moor were placed within the last three years. And perhaps the MOD has become more aware of geocaching and its security implications (real or not).
    I personally feel there is more of a security issue with placing caches near main roads, railway stations and town centres.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    Another update – from a DNPA Factsheet:

    Public access to the Training Areas

    The Dartmoor Commons Act 1985 allows the general public access on the common land by foot and on horseback.

    Most of the Training Areas are on common land. The military welcomes public access to these Training Areas but for the public’s safety Range Danger Areas are closed to the public when live firing is programmed. The Range boundaries are marked on the ground by red and white posts with warning notices and are also shown on some maps such as the Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure map for Dartmoor.

    Warning signals (red flags by day or red lights by night) are hoisted on prominent physical features around each Range Danger Area to indicate that live firing is occurring. A number of lookout posts are also manned when live firing is taking place.

    Dartmoor Commons Act 1985

    1O.—( 1) Subject to the provisions of this Act and compliance
    to commons. with all rules, regulations or byelaws relating to the commons
    and for the time being in force, the public shall have a right of
    access to the commons on foot and on horseback for the
    purpose of open-air recreation; and a person who enters on the
    commons for that purpose without breaking or damaging any
    wall, fence, hedge, gate or other thing, or who is on the
    commons for that purpose having so entered, shall not be
    treated as a trespasser on the commons or incur any other
    liability by reason only of so entering or being on the commons.

    OK, so no specific mention of geocaching or letterboxing, but our rights are enshrined in an Act of Parliament. I think the GAGB are way out of their depth with this one and appear to have no jurisdiction in this. However, we still need to persuade them to change their mind as for some reason they seem to hold power over the UK Reviewers 🙁


    I am guessing that as landowners, they can decide whether to allow caches on THEIR OWN LAND or not, and as such may have contacted the GAGB, who are, after all, seen to be the main representatives of geocaching in the UK, and as such, the reviewers have to listen to their views.

    I am wondering if the murkiness comes from the fact that the MoD uses a lot of land that is not actually OWNED by them, especially here on Dartmoor, but that the reviewers do not KNOW which land they own and which they don’t, and therefore, for now, have to treat all land used by the MoD as if they do.

    As for the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985, it states that access is allowed ‘to the commons on foot and on horseback for the
    purpose of open-air recreation’, and letterboxing and geocaching are definitely ‘open-air recreation’, and as such, should be allowed – as long as we don’t break anything in the process.


    I am assuming this MOD ban is only for Willsworthy as this is the only range they own. So down reality of the situation are we talking about the area within the 46 WD boundary stones or are we talking about the area within the range poles.
    A few years ago I placed a letterboxing walk of 46 letterboxes one off each stone. There is quite a difference in some places between their boundary and the range poles, the best example of this is Standon Hill, it is within the WD stones but outside the range poles so there is full public access at all times.
    On the other hand on the on the northern side of Willsworthy the WD stones go up the hill between Sharp Tor and Hare Tor the down Deadlake to the Rattlebrook, in this area the range poles and well to the north of these boundary stones to keep people out of the Sharp Tor and Chat Tor areas which I assume they do not own.
    So if this ban is just on their land I could not put a cache on Standon Hill which has full public access but I could put one on Sharp Tor which is within the Willsworthy Firing Range!
    As for the letterboxers, they will carry on as ever, the 100 club can’t control individuals that place boxes on the moor and pass the clues to their letterboxing friends.
    It seems to me the reviewers have been heavy handed again with this un-necessary ban as far as Okehampton and Merrivale ranges are concerned similar to the self-imposed Roos Tor ban. (Even after discussing this matter with DNPA staff, who knew nothing of this.)

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    Monday morning update:

    I have not yet been able to talk to Andrew Watson (Head of Recreation at the DNPA) with whom I negotiated the new geocaching guidelines last year, but have left a message for him.

    I have spoken to my land agent at the Duchy who knows nothing of this ban and will talk to the land agent that deals with the MOD. However, he did suggest that it would be ludicrous to ban geocaching/letterboxing on one of the ranges and allow it on the others, from which I inferred that he would not be happy with a ban on any of the ranges.

    There has been a very useful post on the Groundspeak forum from a reviewer who says “If local cachers and/or the GAGB are willing/able to negotiate local exemptions then we will be able to review accordingly.”

    So, cautiously optimistic 🙂

    Avatar photofinderman

    Well done Dave. Good work. Fingers crossed!

    Avatar photodartymoor

    Thanks for your work on this dave.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    Thanks for your good wishes, but nothing positive to report yet.

    However, there is a very heated discussion going on here:

    Finderman, as ex-army, having trained on Dartmoor and now geocaching on Dartmoor, you might well like to add your point of view in that forum.


    Just read through that forum, it’s interesting to read opinions from people who have clearly never been to Dartmoor in their lives.

    They seem to think the MoD are the “land managers”?!? of the ranges? Despite them having no ownership whatsoever.

    And don’t seem to realise that access on Dartmoor was enshrined as common land well before the CRoW legislation. Yes, every part of the moor is owned by someone, but they have no say over access by the public. Unless you happen to own Vixen Tor of course…

    Keep up the fight Dave!

    Avatar photodartymoor

    The MOD ruling says “land owned by the MOD”. The reviewers have said the same thing, and groundspeak’s rules require only permission from the landowner.

    I have asked the reviewers for clarification of that for Dartmoor.

    Personally, if I have to rule Willsworthy range out of placing caches, I can accept that. I won’t like it, but will accept it.

    The MOD also own a lot of coast path, housing estates, even entire villages around the country. I don’t think the widespread scope of this decision has sunk in, because most people don’t understand just how much land they (us) own.

    Incidentally, this one decision has changed me from somebody who happily accepted live fire training, indeed even enjoyed my encounters with the military (and I have many about grassy hummocks saying “Alright mate!” etc) on Dartmoor into somebody who will oppose it in future.

    The MOD have created a rule that prevents me enjoying the moor alongside them, not just on Dartmoor but at many other places owned by them.


    I live within walking distance of Willsworthy but rarely walk on they range because they are always firing, not an enormous amount of letterboxes are put there for that reason and people keep clear of Tavy cleave due to the bird nesting anyway. I see there are 8 caches in that area it will be interesting to see if they have to be moved!
    Several boxes from my present charity walk has been placed on MOD property but outside the RP’s.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    We took off to Cornwall today for a very disappointing day’s caching. I may not agree with everything that Chris Graculus says but he has this after his signature on his posts “When you go to hide a geocache, think of the reason you are bringing people to that spot. If the only reason is for the geocache, then find a better spot.” Unfortunately we found several that fitted that description today – no more than micros tossed in hedgerows 🙁 This seems to be the trend in geocaching which I find to be so disappointing – but then as we all know “It’s all about the numbers!”

    Anyway, I digress – just before I left this morning Andrew Watson (Head of Recreation at DNPA) returned my call from Monday. He knows nothing of the ban and has asked his Head Ranger to take it up with the guys at Okehampton. I suspect this could be a lengthy process!

    Avatar photofinderman

    When I’ve got a spare moment I will read, digest and post on that forum Dave.
    Well done on being so proactive.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    I’ve just been talking to the DNPA again and have just found out something very interesting, if not a little disappointing. The DNPA are beginning to place their own caches and are listing them on the Garmin sponsored site. They won’t get them listed on Groundspeak as I am sure that they are too close together and too close to existing caches. Is anybody registered on the Garmin site and logged any finds there?

    I’ve no further news on the MoD problem.

    I’ve now created a new topic and moved all relevant replies there.

    Avatar photodartymoor

    The GAGB triggered this ban by seeking to appeal a single refusal by escalating it.

    • This reply was modified 11 years ago by Avatar photodartymoor.

    They really don’t represent us, do they.

    I recently placed a series of caches near Belstone. Aware of the MoD “ban” I avoided placing any in the range areas, but despite the fact that a certain cache (at Knattaborough Tor, halfway along the ridge between Oke and Higher) was outside the range area, I have still had it refused.

    I’m not bashing the reviewer here, as they have a thankless task sometimes, but it does seem odd that this national “ban” is now enforced with very little information, a sort of guess at the boundaries. I actually have some military maps taken from documents available online that show the range boundaries in far more detail, and also another one that shows the land owned by the MoD (basically Willsworthy).

    The very few official statements regarding this issue are also confusing, some say land “used” by the MoD and others (and more likely to be true) land “owned” by the MoD. In my opinion there is a massive difference, as for example, I “use” a lot of of the moor when hiking, does that mean if I object to geocaches I can ban them all? Surely the same legal basis?

    The cache in question is definitely outside of the range (the range poles here cross at least 30/40m south), but because it is close it probably won’t be listed. I think I will try opencaching and see if it gets enabled. It’s time like this I get tempted to place letterboxes!

    I will try and upload the range maps or find a link.

    p.s. reading the link above reminded me of the Roos Tor ban – does anyone actually know why it exists/is still in place?


    If anybody would like to see the maps I can email them, I don’t think they want to upload on this site.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    I have some update information which I will add soon, very busy at the moment!

    Also I intend taking up the Roos Tor ban, Brentorboxer has provided some helpful information here.

    I would like to see the maps so please email to me



    Hi Clownpunchers, Please could you send me a copy of the maps
    Many thanks.


    I have just been looking the 2nd map, interesting seeing the bird nesting area, a lot more than I knew about, when I put my daughter’s charity letterbox walk out in the Doe Tor/Rattlebrook Hill area outside the range, the boxes on Rattlebrook Hill were refused due to bird nesting, this area seems to be clear on their map. A couple years ago Redroaming wanted to put her charity walk at Belstone and Oke Tor she was told to keep clear of Oke Tor due to bird nesting, again it is clear on their map. Then a lot of geocaches are being placed in the bird nesting areas but I suppose that is due to the reviewers not knowing, but from what I see the whole thing seem rather hit and miss anyway, nothing is stopping anyone from visiting these areas and after all birds are nesting all over the place. I read the other day that the biggest predator of birds is other birds!!


    Their maps may not be the most accurate, and I would assume that areas can change over time or with further study. I would assume Oke Tor is okay, as the Ten Tors Checkpoint was actually moved to there instead of East Mill Tor (bird nesting fears) in recent years. The remote caches get very few visits so I guess it’s ok to place a cache in a bird nesting area per se, but could be something we could all think about.

    As a side note, I like the convenient break in the middle of the Steeperton “bird nesting area” on the military map, where one of the military roads runs through it!

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    I would imagine that the areas to avoid for bird nesting would be far bigger for army manoeuvres than for letterboxing or geocaching. The remote geocaches get barely 20 visits a year whereas just one army training day would cause more impact than 10 years geocaching.

    I would think the biggest threat to bird nesting (and other creatures) is fire. That huge fire on the north moor a few weeks ago must have caused immense damage to all wild life and coming during the nesting season would have destroyed a very large number of ground nesting birds nests.

    Avatar photodartymoor

    For info. Talking via Facebook and the Reviewer’s Tea Bar, as I was getting no answers on the Groundspeak forums;

    Simon Avery
    What’s the official line on the “possible” MOD ban, and does it apply to land owned by the mod, or land owned and used by the mod?
    Like · · Unfollow Post · Share · Friday at 17:50

    Karen Vernon likes this.
    Chris Dale Please see the article about the MOD in the UK Geocaching Wiki :
    United Kingdom Landowner Agreements – Wiki – Groundspeak Wiki
    This database contains a list of landowners and managers who approve of geocachi…See more
    21 hours ago · Like

    Simon Avery Thank you. Next question; Who do I talk to about an area that has been included in error in these maps?

    19 hours ago · Like
    Simon Evans You would need to provide your local reviewer with written confirmation from the landowner and MOD to confirm that the MOD do not use this land and that there is an error with the mapping. Without this a cache in this area would not be published.
    18 hours ago via mobile · Like

    Simon Avery Thanks again, but “use this land” is not the same as “own this land”. I don’t think it is within anyone’s remit to ban geocaching on another landowner’s property and certainly not within the groundspeak guidelines. Can you confirm you meant “own this land”?
    18 hours ago · Like

    Chris Dale The MOD announced the ban on MOD Estate land (land they own). They have so far not provided anyone (certainly not us reviewers) with any maps of the Estate land. The areas shown on the Google map are just training areas and ranges the MOD may own but certainly use that we’ve been able to identify. If some of these are not owned by the MOD but rented from landowners we do not know what the terms of any ‘rental agreement’ are. It may be the MOD consider the land to be ‘theirs’, for their use and all their rules and regulations may apply. It may be that the landowner can control what goes on there. The MOD ‘may’ consider the geocaching ban extends to such land. We have erred on the side of caution and until such time as a landowner AND the MOD confirm to us geocaching on such land is OK we will continue to refuse caches there. At the moment we reviewers are not working directly with the MOD to resolve this because that is being done by the GAGB and we will of course provide any such help that we can.
    13 hours ago · Like

    Simon Avery Thank you, this is the most information I have yet received!
    I appreciate and can even agree to a hiatus while this is absorbed and ratified (provided no existing caches are archived that are already on these lands) for a period.
    However – my point will remain that the Groundspeak rules specify landowners, not land users – and if it can be proven that any land marked as restricted by a ban by the MOD is not owned by them, they *cannot* influence Groundspeak and the Reviewer’s decisions unless they persuade the landowner to object on their behalf. If the reviewers or GAGB act differently to this, they are breaching Groundspeak’s own rules.
    A few seconds ago · Like


    It’s such a joke, the original statement was “land they own” but it seems to have been extended to “land they use” purely by the reviewers. I have offered to show them the official military map showing military land ownership (pretty much just Willsworthy range) but they simply are not interested in any factual information.

    I currently have a cache not published which is outside a range because it’s “land they use” – it’s not even in a range let alone on land owned by the MoD!! Just because a reviewer from Wales has drawn a line on google maps…brilliant!

    There appear to be a lot of self-important people on power trips, who would far rather rush into banning geocaching on a massive scale than represent the people they are supposed to serve.

    Do you think the MoD really want caching banned on the ranges they don’t own?!?? I bet they aren’t even aware there is a “ban” and they certainly don’t even have the legal standing to do so on land they don’t own.

    It is getting stupid now and I think some radical change is needed in the reviewing process.

    I am already talking to groundspeak, but I guess I may also need to get in touch with the National Park and the defence estate who I’m sure would be dumbfounded to learn of a “ban”. But why is it that we have to fight against the people appointed to keep us caching? Has really soured my experience of the sport.

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