Cross the UK: What is Wild Camping?

A real expedition requires a true wild camp.  It’s lovely to have a nice well tended campsite with showers and other facilities but it’s not the same as pitching up in a remote and scenic spot where you’re undisturbed and able to truly get closer to nature.  Pitching up at Scales Tarn on my first wild camp at the age of 16 was a liberating experience and one I will always remember but it’s vitally important that you understand the legal position and moral responsibility of this practice if you are venturing out for your first wild camping experience.

Wild camping is the act of pitching your tent in an area which is remote and not a recognised campsite.  As such there are no electrical hook ups, no taps and no toilets!  Wild camping is not as simple as picking a field and pitching a tent however.  In many locations across the UK land is privately owned and pitching your tent on it is trespassing.  It’s important to have a basic understanding of the law and or expectations for the areas you are looking to camp in.

The Scottish Highlands are a great place for wild camping.  The Land Reform Act in 2003 contained regulations allowing responsible and discrete wild camping so long as it is at least 100m away from roads and it is away from any inhabited buildings or animal occupied fields.

The rules in England and Wales are different and due to private land ownership there is no inherent right to camp.  This means that explicit permission from the land owner is required before you pitch your tent.  Various petitions have been started over the past 10 years to try and legalise wild camping.  When asked for a response to the petition the Lake District National Park stated that “Wild camping on unenclosed fell land, remote from the roads, is generally accepted if undertaken responsibly by small numbers of people.”

Certain areas of Snowdonia have designated farm land that can be used for wild camping with permission from the land owners and Dartmoor has specific areas where you are allowed to wild camp without permission.  You can check out there wild camping map if in doubt of where you are allowed to stay.

The National Park Authority has a simple set of rules when wild camping which we believe form a good basis for planning your wild camp.

  1. In England and Wales (other than Dartmoor Common areas) ask the landowner for permission first.
  2. Care for the countryside by leaving no trace of your visit behind you.  This includes damage to the ground caused by fires.
  3. If you pitch late and leave early, you’ll cause less disturbance to wildlife and other people.
  4. If there are no toilets, use a trowel to bury human waste at least 30 meters away from running water or lakes. The Mountaineering Scotland guide to Where to go in the wild! is a great resource to help you to understand how to relieve yourself in the wild.
  5. Move your tent after two nights to avoid damaging the vegetation underneath it.
  6. Keep to small groups of just one or two tents to keep noise and disturbance levels down.
  7. Try not to camp immediately beside a lake or river to avoid disturbing birds and animals.

Wild camping is a fantastic experience and allows you to experience your favourite locations in a very different way but do make sure you stick to the basic principles outlined above.  Keep an eye out for our guide to wild camping later this month which will give take you through the important considerations required when planning your wild camping experience along with some of our personal recommendations for a great wild camping experience.

Mick Fenwick

Mountain Leader, D of E Co-Ordinator, Deputy Headteacher

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