Wild Camping in England and Wales - should this be allowed?

There are currently (February 2008) two petitions requesting that current legislation on wild camping in England and Wales be changed to match more closely the situation in Scotland.

Wild Camping in England and Wales is currently not permitted. The CRoW (Countryside and Rights of Way) Act 2000 forbids camping unless you have the express permission of the land owner.

In contrast, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (1 July 2004) does permit wild camping as long as this is not close to roads, houses or in other circumstances that could be considered an invasion of privacy. The Scottish code says:

"Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place.

You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner's permission.

Leave no trace by, taking away all your litter, removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire (follow the guidance for lighting fires), not causing any pollution."

At first sight, it may appear that the initiatives to make wild camping legal in England and Wales should be supported particularly as the introduction of the Scottish code does not appear to have resulted in wide-spread abuse of the rights it supports.

However, the situation in Scotland is different - distances between conurbations and prime walking areas are greater plus the terrain and conditions generally are more challenging. So it's possible that the greater freedom to wild-camp is of advantage only to more frequent walkers or climbers who are likely to be more aware of 'best practice'.

If changes are made in England and Wales - and these changes are communicated in the less responsible press as a license to 'camp where-ever you like' - there's surely a risk that we find ourselves in a far worse position than we are now.

Imagine a situation where wide-spread abuse of new rights (eg people choosing to camp on road verges or just next to car-parking areas) leads to the current, often accommodating attitude of English and Welsh land-owners to the current low levels of responsible wild camping being hardened.

Or shouldn't the responsible people who are currently deterred from experiencing the freedom of wild-camping in England and Wales be given some encouragement?

Let us know what you think.

If you'd like to get involved and support the petitions, you can find them here:

For more information on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, see here

For more questions and answers about wild camping, see here

“As someone who is learning self reliance skills and knowledge, (Ray Mears, Dave Canterbury, Cody Lundin) as well as camping and enjoying the outdoors, it is vitally important for me to be able to camp out where and when I choose, whilst acknowledging others' personal space, ecological and environmental factors. Put simply, living with the land and not just on it.

I think it is the right of every man, woman and child to be able to go and sit on a piece of earth, shelter, keep warm, cook and eat food assuming it harms no others or their property. (Travellers setting up mass camps is a very different subject however, they are some of the least ecologically minded people in the country. Not exactly nomadic are they. More like rampaging pillagers) We are talking about a short experience with groups of small numbers who appreciate the land about them.

Allowing wild camping in its entirety and keeping the laws as they are both have merit. I see the ideal balance where a previous reader commented. Either a countryside council licence, or training to ensure that wild campers understand the basics of "leave no trace" and health and safety considerations. I hasten to add, let's not allow this to become another local government money spinner, which again would take away fundamental rights of roaming.

I shall close by being proud to say that I have wild camped, I do wild camp and shall continue to wild camp, in spite of "laws", until I don't have the legs to carry me any more . . .”

Simon Templar, London

“hi all, i would like to shed a light on this matter, myself and my 2 freinds are very responible young adults and love to camp out, i have wildcamped in every corner of snowdonia (my back garden) and will continue to do so. we leave in the morning with no trace of us ever being there. personaly i cannot come to terms with asking for permission to sleep out on the land that our fathers lived to conserve. i surpose there is a certain aire of selfishness to this but why should some welsh born, welsh speaking and eco-minded youths seek permission from an office in england ? will not happen in my case.”

Simon Davies, Caernarfon

“When I was young my family holidayed in a small camper van and we used to find great places to camp overnight, carefully leaving no trace the next day. Nowadays that's not allowed and I regret I can't share that adventure with my child. However given the appalling lack of consideration for the environment/countryside/others that I have witnessed on the part of campers in recent visits to campsites, sadly I think that if it were, a minority of them would spoil it for the responsible ones.”

Linda , Kingston

“I am not in favour of any changes in the law. When I wild camp, I am very careful and do so with other, responsible people. Whatever the terminology of a new law, it would be wide open to misinterpretation, and popular routes would risk becoming marked by large 'wild' camping areas. And when there are several groups, who is the landowner or other authority going to hold to account when a fire is started and not controlled?”

James Keen, Loughborough

“it would be great if a bill allowing wild camping could be "whispered in" into Engalnd and wales but like the contributor says "less responsible press" could have a field day, i dont wish to sound snobbish but i think anyone reading this would understand my reservasions.”

Mike Leigh, Manchester

“If you want to wild camp you could apply for a yearly pass (from countryside council?) where you agree to a code of behavior and to OK areas. This would stop the opportunist campers.”

Wendy Fells, Chester

The views expressed by contributors to this discussion are not necessarily those held by go4awalk.com.

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