Wild camping is one of the best ways of just getting out there and into nature. Just you and the unspoiled wilderness. No static caravans, no kids’ play areas, no sun-burnt barbecues. But there are a few things that you need to know when it comes to wild camping in the UK.
Strictly speaking, wherever you are wild camping in England and Wales, outside of Dartmoor, you need to acquire the landlord’s permission. But once that permission is granted - away you go! The laws in Scotland are slightly different and you can camp “anywhere” in accordance with access rights established by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. There are, of course, exceptions to “anywhere” - best to avoid people’s front gardens.
Dartmoor, one of the most beautiful areas of the UK, permits wild camping for up to two consecutive nights in the same location. Keep in mind though, that there are some areas on Dartmoor where you can’t camp - and you certainly don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to find that you’ve pitched up in the middle of a rifle range! The Dartmoor National Park Authority provides a map of where you can wild camp - find it here! That aside, the rules for wild camping on Dartmoor are pretty relaxed - you just need to make sure that your tent is at least 100 metres away from the road and is not visible from either the road or nearby dwellings. It’s also a good idea to avoid archeological sites, farmland, moorland that is surrounded by walls and floodplains (keep in mind that Dartmoor’s rivers are rather prone to rising rapidly).
Note that on Exmoor, as with the other national parks, wild camping is not permitted. Though there is “Open Access land”, “CRoW land” and “Common land” these terms do not mean that there is any public right to camp. In fact, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) explicitly excludes camping as a right in its legislation.
Wild camping, at its core, is about getting away from it all. While you might not be able to (strictly speaking) pitch up anywhere you like there are some pretty cool alternatives. Sites like Pitchup.com have a list of “wild camping” sites. These are campsites that provide masses of space for each pitch, some have limited facilities and some, such as the wonderful ‘Back of Beyond’ in Dorset, even have their own lakes and rivers!
Whether you’re going to be out and about on your own in the middle of Dartmoor, pitched up in a farmer’s field or enjoying the spacious surroundings of a “wild camping” site the key thing is to, as the scouts say, be prepared.
The wonderful people over at the Ordnance Survey provide a ‘beginners’ guide to wild camping’, they even have a guide on how to pack your rucksack if you want it.
It sounds obvious but, choose your pitch carefully. Getting to your destination in daylight is key as it gives you time to choose your pitch carefully and properly scout out the area.
Stoves are an essential component of wild camping. Under no circumstances should you start a fire. Even seemingly wet heathland can burn rapidly and even if you do avoid setting fire to your surroundings you will at the very least scar the ground, damaging the site for future wild campers.
UK Hillwalking has some excellent advice on wild camping and water. The full article can be read here, but essentially if possible, take from running water rather than still, boil everything and follow a strict bathroom regime - go to the toilet at least 30m from your water source, bury your feces and (carefully) burn all toilet paper. It’s also worth checking upstream from where you’re taking your water for deceased animals and other unpleasantries.
The Great Outdoors Magazine has some top tips for first time wild campers.
Read the article here.
Wild camping is about the closest to nature that you can get! Get out there and enjoy it.
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