Wild camping is becoming increasingly popular in the UK perhaps because of the intrinsically free aspect to this type of outdoor fun, or perhaps it’s the strange idea that camping should be about getting back to nature. However most modern camp sites steer clear of nature, normally they are, at best, full of screaming kids and desperate parents or, at worst, a shrink-packed suburb. Modern camping is not always a pleasure. Wild camping offers the best chance you’ll get in the UK to get away from it all. There’s nothing like waking up to the sunrise on a mountain top, completely alone to experience the real outdoors. Additionally, if you like your accommodation free, this could just be for you.
The original budget holiday
In recent years wild camping has had something of a bad press – despite the fact that it was the original and the best version. Seen as the preserve of hippies, anarchists or the homeless, wild camping has been frowned upon. However, apart from being the original budget holiday, wild camping offers the more adventurous tourist a chance to get away from it – properly – and to experience Britain’s wild places as they were meant to be experienced. In terms of cost, apart from the necessary kit such as tents and rucksacks, it can be the cheapest option. If you’re brave enough to ditch the car and set off on foot, you’ll be doing the environment, your pocket and your health some good along the way.
What’s that noise?
As a society we’ve become a little bit risk averse; if the activity involves so much as stubbing a toe we tend to need a risk assessment and safety gear. One reason that wild camping may appeal to the less cowardly lions amongst us is that it retains just a soupcon of danger. Let’s face it, during a night out on the moors if you scream, nobody will be able to hear you. To some, that’s a chilling prospect, while to others it adds touch of authenticity to camping that can never be found on your average holiday park (OK, yes, they can make you scream too). You wouldn’t really expect to be able to experience this in the good old healthy and safe UK, but a spot of wild camping can offer a chance to test your own nerve and survival abilities, surprisingly close to home.
Wild Camping Laws
Even though it’s wild you just know there’s going to be rules about this sort of thing. In the UK it’s subject to various regulations and laws. The rules vary in different parts of the UK, with Scotland having traditionally a more liberal attitude to land access; here laws allow wild camping if you’re away from houses and roads. In England it’s generally considered perfectly legal with the landowners permission. This in practice is not always easy to obtain in the more remote regions such as the Lake District Mountains or open fells and moors. The reality is that wild camping is normally tolerated if you stay away from livestock, don’t light fires and keep away from people’s houses. Wild camping on moors, fells and mountains is more likely to go unnoticed and unchallenged than if you set up camp in somebody’s field. When it comes to fields and woods it’s best to try and get permission, which is refused less often than you might imagine. In these places you’ll almost certainly get permission if you offer a small financial incentive.
Where to go?
For beginners the more remote regions of the South Downs offer a taste of life in the wild, with the comfort of being close to civilisation and dry pubs in an emergency. The north Pennines and Lake District offer wilder, remoter locations that should be considered by more experienced walkers and wild campers. For the ultimate UK getaway, the Highlands of Scotland offer absolutely nothing you need and all the space and isolation you could ever want; best for hardened explorers with big rucksacks.
Apart from the free factor, wild camping is on the increase with those who prefer a little risk to their adventures. Armed with quality rucksacks, tents, compasses and a tolerance to rain, a walk on the wild side is closer to home than you might think.