Most of the 27,900 hectares have been owned by the Duchy since its creation in 1337.
Today it is agriculture that dominates the use of most of the land; the extraction of minerals and peat, both once valuable industries, are now consigned to historical record.
Farms on Duchy land in Dartmoor occupy about 8,100 hectares. The sometimes harsh climate and thin poor soils are suited to little other than stock rearing and all of the Duchy’s 22 farms are let to tenants who breed and rear hill cattle and sheep.
After his time at university, the current Duke of Cornwall spent time working on a sheep farm in Dartmoor to get first-hand experience of the difficulties faced by tenants in such tough conditions.
Although predominantly a rural estate, the farmland and commons are interspersed by over 50 houses, six pubs, three hotels and a wide variety of small rural workshops. All these premises are let to tenants and provide opportunities to both live and work on the moor.
The commons also provide valuable grazing, a recreational resource to the millions of visitors to Dartmoor each year, and a training facility for the Ministry of Defence.
In managing the Dartmoor estate the Duchy strives to achieve a balance between its commercial obligations and stewardship of the natural environment.
The Duchy works with other organisations and communities that share the use and enjoyment of Dartmoor including tenants, village communities, Government agencies and local authorities. Particularly important is the Duchy’s relationship with the Dartmoor National Park Authority.
Examples of Duchy initiatives on Dartmoor:
Dartmoor Hill Farm Project - The Duchy is working with Dartmoor farmers to identify ways of showing the link between the public’s enjoyment of the moors and the important role that farmers play in maintaining this landscape. Through the initiative, the public can purchase meat from livestock reared on Dartmoor in the knowledge that profits will benefit the farmers who continue to play such a vital role in managing the environment for all.
All farms have integrated management plans and a wealth of agri-environment initiatives that encourage profitable environmentally-friendly farming.
The Duchy has supported the Dartmoor pony with a programme to improve the breed characteristics of the animal, which is an important icon of the Dartmoor National Park.
The Duchy is a partner and keen supporter of the Dartmoor Biodiversity Action Plan and the Action for Wildlife Project, which aims to protect vulnerable species and habitats, such as encouraging the declining numbers of moorland wading birds such as curlew and lapwing to breed more successfully.
Princetown, the highest village in England, is being regenerated with new homes built and poor quality homes demolished, a new National Park Visitor Centre and a new Post Office and convenience store for the use of the community.