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Ian Finch: The Rules of Wild Camping

Ian Finch is an explorer, survivalist and nature aficionado. An ex-Royal Marine, Ian is our go-to-guy when it comes to adventure advice. Here, he explains the do's and don'ts and the rules and regulations of wild camping across the UK.

"Leave No Trace" - The Rules of Wild Camping

 

Wild Camping is mini-adventure in its purest form. When you arrive at a location, whether it's familiar or for the first time, mountain or ancient woodland, that feeling of constructing your home for the night is unforgettable. And when the zip to the door of your sanctuary slides to the top there is an aura of security and refuge until morning comes.

Yet, with this magical experience of risk and reward, wild camping has its "legal" limitations. In England, Wales and Ireland current law states that you're to not wild camp unless there is express permission from the landowner. Even though this framework exists the UK National Park website freely offers advice and appears wild camping friendly as long you adhere to the ethics and rules of the legal landscape.

To support this perspective Dartmoor has maps of where you can camp on common land, in the Brecon Beacons you can find a list of farms that provide camp locations and in certain areas of Scotland, The Scottish Outdoor Code provides you with permitted access as long as you adhere, again, to the rules and access laws that come with wild camping in that region. Let's look into that a bit deeper.

The beautiful and unspoiled Dartmoor frequently allows wild camping on its common land as long as numbers are kept down to small groups. Also on Dartmoor it's permitted for you to stay for two nights (no more) in the same place without asking for permission. It's always worth confirming on your Ordnance Survey maps that access to the location is permitted prior to setting off. Understandably, these light restrictions are put in place to safeguard the parks special qualities for present and future generations.

In the rugged wild beauty of Scotland, The Outdoor Code states that access is allowed if group numbers are limited, kit is lightweight and time on location is kept to a minimum of two or three nights on one site. Also, to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers, camping in enclosed fields of crops, near farm animals and/or historic sites should be avoided.

Importantly for this region extra care is to be taken to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting seasons and having an awareness of the yearly schedules and locations is advisable. To accompany the Outdoor Code seasonal byelaws have been introduced from March 2017 in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs area that state camping permits must now be obtained.

Leave No Trace - The Wild Camping Code:

  • Take away ALL litter, whether created by yourself or others
  • Remove all traces of your tent pitch.
  • Do not cause any pollution
  • Be responsible for your actions
  • Noise to be kept to a minimum
  • In permitted areas, when a fire is lit, all traces must be removed. (Scotland)
  • Respect and protect the immediate natural environment and wildlife.

In summary, even though the legality of wild camping (on paper) says in certain regions it's not allowed, there's a friendly and lenient approach to this statute in most National Parks as long as we follow, with care, the Leave No Trace Code. It's important to remember that the byelaws and outdoor codes are there to be adhered to with foremost priority and respect being for the landowner, the natural environment and the local wildlife. It's my firm belief that to get this right means future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy the wild places as freely as we do now.

For more detailed information, consult the Visit Scotland website, or the National Park info page on camping.

Whittled by Ian Finch

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Author avatar
Ian FinchAuthor

Former Royal Marine Commando Ian Finch, is an indigenous cultural researcher, expedition guide and mountain leader whose been travelling to remote environments for over 4 years. His passion in life is driven by discovery - In adventure, the mechanics of nature and the human journey.

His expeditions and writing have featured in Sidetracked Magazine, Men’s Health, British Exploring and The Great Outdoors Magazine. His latest expedition, a 2000 mile canoe descent of the Yukon River, was included in the top 10 adventures of 2016 by the Guardian. In 2014 Ian was part of an expedition to Greenland to research the relationship between Inuit Hunters, the dog sled culture and the changing environment. That year he also spent time in Tibet, Iceland, Nepal and China on research. This deep desire to explore is driven by an urge to understand and learn about 1st nation cultures of the region, their ancient traditions and ways of life. Every journey taken is linked by this cultural thread.

He combines his passion for photography, writing and filmmaking with wild landscapes and the great outdoors. When not overseas, Ian lives in Hertfordshire, London.

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