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Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 15:00 GMT
Bomb fears for wild campers
Tank firing
Unexploded shells lurk beneath the moor's surface
A guide offering advice on burying toilet waste on Dartmoor has been scrapped after fears unsuspecting campers could blow themselves up.

The Dartmoor National Park Authority had planned a guide to wilderness camping on the moor, advising campers to dig a hole if caught short.

But the danger of digging up unexploded shells left behind after military training on the moor, proved too risky.

Gun firing
Conservationists say it is time the army moved off the moor
Conservationists say the continued risk to the public highlights their calls for the army to abandon its live firing on the moor and also warned campers could disturb archaeological remains.

Commander of Army Training in the South West, Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Nutting, told BBC News Online people had been killed on the moor after picking up unexploded shells.

In 1995 two children were injured while playing with a mortar they had found.

"We cannot guarantee that if Joe Public decides to bury his or her excrement, there wouldn't be something lurking beneath the surface," said Lt Col Nutting.

Access row

Park authority spokesman Mike Nendick said plans for a guide to wilderness camping were binned after consultation with experts.

"One aspect of advice would have been to bury human excrement. But there were a number of reasons against that, not just the military one," he said.

He said park bylaws prohibited removal of turf or peat on the moor and digging could damage the thousands of Bronze Age archaeological sites in the area.

Mr Nendick said the military ranges were cleared of ammunition after use but a potential danger remained.

He urged campers to be sensible and dispose of their waste away from footpaths and streams or simply use a public toilet.

The Ministry of Defence has carried out live firing across most of the moor since Napoleonic times. The army now uses three danger areas, which are open to the public when not in use.

Lt Col Nutting said shells buried in the earth had the tendency to move position over time, like a splinter in the skin.

He added: "The risk is there but it is limited. It is part and parcel of the balance of using the area for military training and permitting the public access, which is their right."

John Bainbridge, of the Dartmoor Preservation Association pressure group says it is time the army moved off the moor, which is visited by 10,000 people a year.

"The conflict between the public interest and the MoD having the army on the national park is too great," he said.

"It means you can either have no wilderness camping on the moor or you have to carry the stuff out in your rucksack, which is not a pleasant prospect."

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