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Wild Camping: should it be illegal?

By Lyssa-Fee Crump Dec 17, 2014 4:56:49 PM

Recently at Anevay HQ we heard about a petition going around to legalise wild camping, and it got us talking about the whole idea of wild camping, why it’s illegal, and why it really shouldn’t be. As a bunch of lifelong lovers and respecters of the outdoors, it makes us a little bit cross that legally we can’t just unobtrusively pitch up a tent, turn off our phones and enjoy a night under the stars if we fancy it.

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Obviously there are reasons why laws like this come into place: landowners don’t want people damaging or vandalising their land, or huge hordes of people rocking up and bedding down for the next six months. That said, the sorts of people who’ll really make a mess of a beautiful unspoilt area without giving a hoot will probably do so whether it’s illegal or not. We only have to look next door to our neighbours in Scotland to see this being done another way: in Scotland the Land Reform Act of 2003 made it legal for anyone on foot, on a bicycle or on a horse to walk or camp wherever they want to, within reason, so long as they behave responsibly.

On the other hand, many of us have and will continue to camp wild, always ensuring to leave no trace and not to upset the environment. It's unlikely anyone would be arrested for wild camping, with most landowners or rangers simply moving people along who were breaking the rules. So does this mean that a change in the law is unnecessary? Some believe that legalising wild camping would encourage the damaging behaviour of some campers as they felt they were acting within the law. Perhaps a change in the law would upset a delicate ecosystem of consideration, care and respect on the part of wild campers and landowners, who find ways around the law without stepping on anyone's toes.

After speaking to campers, farmers and a mixed bag of other outdoorsy types, it seems that the common goal we all have here is education. Changing the law won't automatically make everyone who camps wild be considerate of their setting, but keeping wild camping illegal does nothing to further this cause either. Whether the law changes or not, we all need to do our best to encourage respect for our beautiful countryside, to educate younger campers about how best to protect their surroundings and to maintain good relationships with the owners of the land we love to camp on, so we can go on enjoying it for years to come!

So what can you do if the wilderness is calling and you’re yearning to head for the open hills? Stick to a few simple, common-sense rules: pitch late, leave early, and don’t make a mess. While the law forbids wild camping, in practice many landowners and farmers are tolerant of wild campers so long as they’re unobtrusive and respectful. Avoid camping in large groups and try to blend in: leave the neon tent at home.

We hate to blow our own trumpet but a woodburning stove is a great option for keeping warm and cooking without digging a firepit or scorching the earth. Fire risk from a stove handled with care is actually very low, and much safer than using a disposable barbeque. Bring a Horizon or other rocket stove along with you and it’ll even be smokeless!

Make sure to take absolutely everything away with you that you bring, including other people’s rubbish that you might find lying around. Camping is about enjoying and appreciating the outdoors and the beauty of the wilderness, and this means that we have to be stewards of nature and take care of it when we can. In order to prove those that think wild camping should be illegal wrong, we’ve got to show them how low-impact wild camping can really be.

If you’ve got kids, taking them wild camping is the perfect opportunity to teach them about respecting their environment. Take a tip from our last blog post and get them involved in setting up camp, including where the bins are and the importance of properly disposing of all your rubbish and waste. Play a game of ‘Camp Clean Up’ where you walk around your camp and pick up anything that needs to be thrown away.

If you think that wild camping should be legal, you can sign the petition here. Or maybe you believe that the law should protect the land, and that in order to preserve the beautiful countryside we live in we do need guidelines and rules in place. Join in the debate in the comments below, or let us know what you think on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.


Topics: camping, Anevay News, illegal, laws, petition, stoves in tents, wild camping