How do I know where it’s OK to camp?

  • Hey Guest, For sale we have Hultafors Outdoor Knives with Firesteel PLEASE LOOK HERE for more information or use the Pay Now button in the sidebar

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
Is there a website or a book that lists where I can pitch a tent for the night? I’ve heard stories of disgruntled land owners turfing people out for pitching in their fields and woods.

Is there a definitive way to know that you’re allowed to camp somewhere?
 

Nice65

Full Member
Apr 16, 2009
4,985
1,543
W.Sussex
The definitive way to know in England is by asking permission otherwise assume you can’t. Most land has an owner who may or may not allow camping. I know of several resources for parking up for a night in a campervan, there’s an app called Searchforsites that includes tent camping. UK Campsite also lists loads.

 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,394
3,600
Mid Wales
As Nice says virtually all land in the UK is owned by somebody and if it's not, and it's 'public land', it has use restrictions on it (think Forestry for example). In Scotland you can wild camp subject to basic rules (distance from road and houses etc.) - see here:


In England and Wales it has generally been accepted that you can overnight above the tree line and fence line on the moors and mountains; but that's not a right and you will still be trespassing.

Anywhere else and you must ask permission or you are committing trespass. In 50+ years of wild camping I have never been refused though. Sometimes a landowner will ask you to camp somewhere else but they will usually let you pitch somewhere. Obviously, pitching up in a piece of private woodland and lighting a fire without permission will cheese a landowner off and you will get thrown off.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Billy-o

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
As Nice says virtually all land in the UK is owned by somebody and if it's not, and it's 'public land', it has use restrictions on it (think Forestry for example). In Scotland you can wild camp subject to basic rules (distance from road and houses etc.) - see here:


In England and Wales it has generally been accepted that you can overnight above the tree line and fence line on the moors and mountains; but that's not a right and you will still be trespassing.

Anywhere else and you must ask permission or you are committing trespass. In 50+ years of wild camping I have never been refused though. Sometimes a landowner will ask you to camp somewhere else but they will usually let you pitch somewhere. Obviously, pitching up in a piece of private woodland and lighting a fire without permission will cheese a landowner off and you will get thrown off.

Cheers for both replies.

Silly question, but how do you go from knowing the name of the wood/forest to finding the land owner and how to contact them?
 
  • Like
Reactions: LarryBass

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,394
3,600
Mid Wales
Cheers for both replies.

Silly question, but how do you go from knowing the name of the wood/forest to finding the land owner and how to contact them?

Ah, that is the difficult bit. You can go to the land registry and do a search - that costs a few £. Often it is better to just ask locally.

I should point out that my statement that I have never been refused permission applies to when I am journeying - that is I am backpacking, cycling or canoeing and they can see I will be on my way the next day; you will have more difficulty if you intend to stay longer than one night and a lot more if you are looking for a 'permission' to use the site frequently. There have been discussion on how to go about the latter previously.
 

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
Ah, that is the difficult bit. You can go to the land registry and do a search - that costs a few £. Often it is better to just ask locally.

I should point out that my statement that I have never been refused permission applies to when I am journeying - that is I am backpacking, cycling or canoeing and they can see I will be on my way the next day; you will have more difficulty if you intend to stay longer than one night and a lot more if you are looking for a 'permission' to use the site frequently. There have been discussion on how to go about the latter previously.

Much appreciated, cheers. I’m only planning on doing the odd overnight camp and taking my little boy along and stuff. Maybe a small bushbox fire, but I’d always tidy up after myself.

I see a lot of people on Youtube camping fairly freely, and then when I look online I see a lot of horror stories about being woken up and kicked off the land and stuff. I assumed the truth would be somewhere in between and I’m sure it all becomes clearer once you’ve done a couple.

Thanks again.
 

Ed the Ted

Forager
Dec 13, 2013
144
41
Scotland
This question is really interesting vis-a-vis bushcraft in wales and england, legally (other than seeking formal permission, owning land yourself), and practically (with regard to landscape change, enclosure, conversion to grazing or arable land), it points to the sheer difficulty of practising bushcraft in any meaningful manner.

Other than either setting up a semi permanent site or arrangement with specific permission, or bending the rules somewhere it might not be appropriate (nature reserves) or particularly desirable (forestry), it has always seemed to me that for most people, in england and wales at least, bushcraft is actually really difficult to practice.

I'm currently living in a capital city in southeastern Europe and 30 minutes on a tram from the centre of the city takes me to a fully wooded hill area, multiple tops the size of munroes but wooded all the way up, in which people at the moment are regularly collecting chestnuts, mushrooms and such like for consumption and selling in the markets, as part of normal life. It really strikes me how having this kind of landscape and environment (physically and legally) accessible means the continuation of (for me) more meaningfully 'bushcraft' knowledge and practice than I've seen anywhere in the UK where it is mostly, in my opinion, a really niche practice, set of skills, and knowledge. Heck, almost all the brick and mortar pharmacies here are actually herbalists, centre of the capital, everywhere, widespread common knowledge about use of herbs, TV shows about it! Home slaughter common knowledge and practice, cooking over a fire extremely common outside of the cities and even widely practiced in communal areas like riverside picnic spots (you can even see people cooking entire pigs or lambs on spits over wood fire when theyre having a big gathering!).

Sorry for the diversion. FWIW, I wild camped loads in wales, ok its less populated, and as long as you strike early it was never a problem. Never asked for permission and never felt inclined to. But I really, really, really hated the constant feeling that I wasn't allowed to be there. Loved living in Scotland where this feeling was, obviously, non-existent.
 

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
This question is really interesting vis-a-vis bushcraft in wales and england, legally (other than seeking formal permission, owning land yourself), and practically (with regard to landscape change, enclosure, conversion to grazing or arable land), it points to the sheer difficulty of practising bushcraft in any meaningful manner.

Other than either setting up a semi permanent site or arrangement with specific permission, or bending the rules somewhere it might not be appropriate (nature reserves) or particularly desirable (forestry), it has always seemed to me that for most people, in england and wales at least, bushcraft is actually really difficult to practice.

I'm currently living in a capital city in southeastern Europe and 30 minutes on a tram from the centre of the city takes me to a fully wooded hill area, multiple tops the size of munroes but wooded all the way up, in which people at the moment are regularly collecting chestnuts, mushrooms and such like for consumption and selling in the markets, as part of normal life. It really strikes me how having this kind of landscape and environment (physically and legally) accessible means the continuation of (for me) more meaningfully 'bushcraft' knowledge and practice than I've seen anywhere in the UK where it is mostly, in my opinion, a really niche practice, set of skills, and knowledge. Heck, almost all the brick and mortar pharmacies here are actually herbalists, centre of the capital, everywhere, widespread common knowledge about use of herbs, TV shows about it! Home slaughter common knowledge and practice, cooking over a fire extremely common outside of the cities and even widely practiced in communal areas like riverside picnic spots (you can even see people cooking entire pigs or lambs on spits over wood fire when theyre having a big gathering!).

Sorry for the diversion. FWIW, I wild camped loads in wales, ok its less populated, and as long as you strike early it was never a problem. Never asked for permission and never felt inclined to. But I really, really, really hated the constant feeling that I wasn't allowed to be there. Loved living in Scotland where this feeling was, obviously, non-existent.

Thanks very much.

As much as I know I won’t be a nuisance and I’ll tidy up after myself, the last thing I’d want is hassle from the landowner when I’m just trying to camp for a night.

It really makes you envious of people like Joe Robinet who have the whole of Canada to camp freely and stuff. That must be great.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ed the Ted

Ed the Ted

Forager
Dec 13, 2013
144
41
Scotland
Thanks very much.

As much as I know I won’t be a nuisance and I’ll tidy up after myself, the last thing I’d want is hassle from the landowner when I’m just trying to camp for a night.

It really makes you envious of people like Joe Robinet who have the whole of Canada to camp freely and stuff. That must be great.

You'll be fine, I think just knowing the legal situation, and not wanting to upset anyone, makes people discerning enough to have no problems. England/Wales is such an exception in the northern hemisphere, almost total landscape change to human or livestock use AND legal alienation from the land for the citizens. Basically everywhere else you can wander into the woods somewhere quiet and no one is any the wiser or you are well within your rights to do so (Scandinavia for example).
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
2,368
900
Berlin
I have no experiances in Britain, but I guess it's quite similar to France and Germany.

If hiking I avoid to pitch my camp next to houses, sheds, cattle, vegetable, roads and ways, villages.

I simply keep a distance to everything where people will take care about and run around.

I try to avoid to disturb hunters.

I use exclusively olive green, brown and dark grey equipment that blends well into the landscape and surch for hidden places if walking. Before I have a look in the map where I find a water source in a lonely area.

I avoid camouflage clothing and prefere a civil looking dress and a very small rucksack during three quarters of the year.
I use a small military poncho tarp with camouflage pattern, that is nearly invisible but the rest of my stuff looks civil and normal.

That means it's quite complicated to find me, but if somebody would come along I give a civilised impression. And of course I will also speak to them in a civilised way.

I use for my camp only places where I obviously would not disturb anyone. I just put my bivvy bag in a corner of two hedges or on an obviously unused other place.

I keep my stuff as long as possible in the rucksack. What I do not currently use is always in the rucksack.
I do not spread out my stuff.

Until sunset I am just a hiker who sits there. Of course I already cleaned up the ground and collected my firewood, but I keep it hidden.

I ignite my fire where it is hidden and keep it as small as possible. I don't ignite fires where I would risk forest fires or could set other values in danger.
If possible I have in dry conditions a stream next by. Who finds me can see that I could extinct the fire.

I leave the place early in the morning, if possible before sunrise. I can do later somewhere a midday sleep.
With sunrise it becomes cold anyway and that is a good reason to move on.

That means I leave the place when the farmer still makes his coffee.

Should one find me, I say hello, and tell him that I hope not to disturb here, I would hike from little Nowhere to the nice Town the whole area is proud about, to see the famous cathedral and the castle next by. I will leave directly after breakfast...

But usually I don't have breakfast where I slept. Depending on the area perhaps just a coffee made on the embers from yesterday's camp fire. But I prefere to get the coffee in the bakers shop in the next village or use a small stove at a nice place half an hour away from my last camp.

As long as I move, as long as I give a civilised impression and look like a usual hiker, as long as I sleep in a corner if it's dark, I don't get any problems.

Foresters and farmers usually don't run around in the darkness. The only reason could be to look after cattle.

If I do not camp between deerstand and way, and not next to a deerstand I will see no humans between sunset and sunrise in the middle of nowhere.

Behaving like this I never got anywhere any problems. During 35 years a few foresters asked me friendly to leave the place because they are unable to allow camping in the forest. It's simply illegal in Germany, and a German forester is an official person, like a policeman.
He can not allow it and has to explain, that camping in a tent in German forests is illegal, and he has to ask you friendly to leave the place.
But he does it in the morning, if I slept too long or have breakfast at the same place before packing the tent into the rucksack...

No farmer in Germany or France ever told me to leave his ground. They just said hallo, understood that I am a hiker and simply did their work. A few times we slept exactly there, where the farmer came along or needed to work. But usually they don't leave the tractor if they see a wild camper in the morning. It usually simply doesn't interest them.
Would you still be there several hours later they perhaps would come along. But perhaps even not in this case.
 
Last edited:

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,394
3,600
Mid Wales
Reading about this I once again realise how lucky we are in Finland to have the right to camp everywhere we want. As long as we stay a few hundred meters away from peoples houses.

Yep, the fundamental problem in the UK is a population of over 66 million on a relatively small island. The average population density is 278 people per km2; in England it's 426 - compared to Finland (19/km2) the UK is very overcrowded.

We are lucky here in Powys, Mid Wales with a population density of only 26/km2 and falling; the lowest population density south of the Scottish border. There are still plenty of places to go and experience relative wilderness though and I've spent days on the hills and in upland woods without seeing anyone.

What we really have to do is stop promoting the outdoors, hillwalking, cycling, canoeing, camping ..... :) (only joking)
 

Wander

Settler
Jan 6, 2017
579
674
Here There & Everywhere
What we really have to do is stop promoting the outdoors, hillwalking, cycling, canoeing, camping ..... :) (only joking)

Joking aside, it's a fair point though.
Two instances spring to the mind.
The first was during Lockdown Part 1. When people were encouraged to go out and get some exercise, but the shops were still closed, there was a noticeable increase in the number of people in the contryside. Looking aside some people's ingnorance of the country code, and assuming that everyone would have behaved impeccably, the impact on the wildlife and environment was noticeable. Quite frankly, there were too many people out and the erosion to trackways and undergrowth was palpable.
The second incident was prompted by the first. A couple of months ago I (and a few others) were interviewed by a television crew who were doing a feature on rural living. We were asked, 'what would you say to people who want to move to the countryside?'
My reply was, 'Please don't. I like living in the countryside because there are few people and I don't want lots of people moving here and ruining it for me.'
Needless to say, that didn't make the edit.
If you want your countryside to remain countryside, you'd better hope few people do visit.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Erbswurst

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,618
712
Canada
the whole of Canada to camp freely and stuff.
You are right, but it is not quite as free and easy as you might think. Wilderness, yes. More or less open areas, yes. But, you have to be able to get to them, and Canada is pretty big. If you are in a city, it can involve quite a trek to get past the farms, and nearby parks may have very many prohibitions to camping anywhere other than designated sites. These sites become available to book in May, and have become a target for skelpers (ticket touts) of all things; which can make securing sites an issue.

Of course, drive far enough and you can carry on regardless and just camp, but the rangers seem to grow on trees somehow and seem to turn up most unexpectedly sometimes. Also, for women and, in fact, anyone who appear not to be of white European stock, it can be intimidating, not to say down right dangerous. People camp in groups not just to avoid the unwanted attention of bears and so forth. That said, I do know dozens and dozens of women who've hiked great chunks of Canada in the past alone, or with just one female companion. They'll all have tales of close shaves with different kinds of disaster, but things do seem to be changing here, not for the better, necessarily ... though maybe it was always so, and just becoming more apparent.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Ed the Ted

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
2,368
900
Berlin
In France an Germany the reality is that you can do what you want if you don't disturb others (including rare plants and wild animals) or risk to burn values.

You aren't allowed to ignite fires in German forests, but 200 m away from it you usually can. You aren't allowed to put a tent into a German forest, but usually can sleep there in a bivvy bag and outside the forest you also can pitch a tent if the landowner doesn't hunt you away.

And if you don't behave like an idiot they don't hunt you away, because wild camping was traditionally done since more than 100 years everywhere in Europe.

The point is: The landowner can hunt you away. If he asks you to leave you have to leave. The landowner is always right, the foreign person always wrong and there is no discussion about this point.

That enables the landowner to take care for his land.

I was a Scout leader and stood connected for decades. I never heard that a farmer asked boy scouts to leave his ground. And there are thousands of wild camping german boy scouts hiking everywhere in Europe ...

In Scandinavic countries you have the official right to do it. In all the other European countries you don't have the right, but as long as you behave responsible you are tolerated.

Wild camping isn't fully legal in most parts of Europe. But in the opinion of most people it's everything else than a crime.

The question behind is:
Is it illegal to sleep somewhere?
And the logical answer is of course: No!
 

Nice65

Full Member
Apr 16, 2009
4,985
1,543
W.Sussex
Ah, that is the difficult bit. You can go to the land registry and do a search - that costs a few £. Often it is better to just ask locally.

Having worked for the large power company that has lines across land all over the south, I can testify the local approach is the way we used to do it. You’d think there would be records from the 1960s onwards of the landowners, probably are, but we had no access to them when seeking permission to cut trees back from the powerlines. It was simply door knocking and talking to people. With this approach, things get more personal and usually more friendly as an understanding of access limits and boundaries is reached. In 6 years of surveying and cutting I never once had to resort to the ‘rights’ of the supplier to maintain the network, it was all about diplomacy and meeting the local landowners, gaining a bit of trust.
 
Last edited:

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,394
3,600
Mid Wales
It really is very difficult at times. We have six farms around us and they all own parcels of land that's mixed up - by that I mean one farmer's field may be totally surrounded by one or more other farmers' fields. It's almost as though it was randomly distributed when the estates were divided up! Our wood has fence lines bordering on five different owners' land :)
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
2,368
900
Berlin
That is the reason why it is surprisingly cheap to buy a little piece of land. And what a bushcrafter would like doesn't really interest a farmer.

I have no idea how that can be managed in Britain. But here in eastern Germany it's pretty easy.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Billy-o

Duggie Bravo

Nomad
Jul 27, 2013
462
92
Dewsbury
I found some of the language being used here interesting.
In most cases you are looking at of wanting to use someone else’s property and you talk of being hassled or turfed off by the person who owns it.

Would you feel the same if you came back to your tent/bivvy and found someone else using it? They are doing no damage, or someone picked up your knife and just started doing something with it?

The best approach has to be to ask permission, you would hope people are reasonable and if they say, “No” you have potentially avoided being woken in the night and moved on.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Bishop

Full Member
Jan 25, 2014
1,603
558
Inside the wire, Llanelli
Beaches (between low & high water marks) are one the few places it's legal to camp without asking permission in Wales & England. Dunes vary and are off limits for camping if part of a nature reserve or have an SSSI (site of special scientific interest) order on them. Then of course there is Dartmoor, camp wherever you like but the lack of trees makes it a bit grim for bushcraft. The Bothy association on the plus side has an overflow clause with the landowners, where it is ok to pitch a tent near a bothy IF the bothy is full. By happy coincidence neither term is explicitly defined, so if a bothy looks full or is closed for repair you could pitch up somewhere'ish in the area ;)

Roadside grey area:
twice having hiked up to Llyn Brianne I have been asked to move on for camping 'illegally' in the car parks but motorhomes and other vehicle users are allowed to stay & party overnight for safety reasons. If anybody has a good loophole excuse I'm getting old and cranky enough to give it a try and risk getting arrested.

Forgotton places: Dotted around the UK there are some amazing spaces un-trodden by boots for decades or more, little packets of land isolated by the ever expanding transport network. Alas getting permission from either the relevant rail authority or the Highways agency has so far proved to be an exercise in futility sometimes they are not even sure who owns it. Again the law gets a little weird, where it's not illegal to spend the day roaming having a look around these kind of places but crossing the road or rail-line to get there is.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nice65

Hultafors Outdoor knife for Sale

We have a a number of Hultafors Outdoor Knives with Firesteels for sale.

You can see more details here in this thread OUTDOOR KNIVES The price is £27 posted to the UK. Pay via the paypal button below.