Land access - seeking and finding permission

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Tony

White bear (Admin)
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Apr 16, 2003
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This is understandably a subject that comes up on a regular basis so Ged kindly put together an article that should answer a lot of questions for people and provide a reference to start getting hold of land to use.

Seeking and gaining land access permission.

After some recent threads and questions about this topic, Tony asked if I could put together some tips for people seeking private land use permission and access for practising their Bushcraft Survival skills. I will admit that this has taken some thinking about as even though it’s something I’ve done many times, in the UK and other countries for both private and commercial projects, it isn’t easy. It takes time and patience to achieve it, but most of all a sense of respect for other people’s property and good manners to keep it.

I’ll break it down into three areas, Research, Approach and Management.

Firstly Research. Some basic outdoor skills are required here, mainly the ability to read a map and interpret its information. I’m not going to digress into a map reading tutorial in this article, as said, this is an essential skill you really should get in the tool box first, but, some pointers here will be.


  • Learn about the features, both man-made and natural boundaries, the nearest buildings, footpaths, it is here you will find the clues of whom the landowner is and where to ask.
  • Check for the essentials, what kind of woodland is it, Evergreen or Deciduous, is there water near by, is it secluded enough or is there public rights of way going through it, the map will show all this, you just have to look.
  • Then ask yourself is it a managed woodland, do you really want to be constantly disturbed by chainsaws and machinery going all the time, - tip, if there is a network of vehicle track lanes going around the area on the map, chances are it’s managed for produce or a 4x4 training area.

Do a Goggle search about the locations you have found on the map that maybe suitable, this is good for finding out names of landowners and the addresses, you could try the Land Register, I never personally needed to.

Now the Approach, make sure you know what you want, don’t waste a land owners time and make sure you can back up any questions they will ask, there will be lots – your not going to get it on a plate.


  • Think about your personal appearance, I would avoid camouflage clothing and carrying allsorts of tools on your belt at this point, some old jeans, jacket and Wellington boots (if they invite you in, easy to take off at the door).
  • Do it alone and leave the pet dogs at home.
  • Have pre-prepared contact info ready to handover, I don’t mean business cards or such but some hand written details to give the landowner with your name and telephone numbers, even an address.
  • Make time, I once spent all day with a Welsh Hill Farmer I met for the first time whilst seeking permission to run training on his land, I had a flask and sandwiches in my day sack and he consumed most of it, This was nearly twenty years ago and we’ve been firm friends since, seeing his family grow up and the farm change through the times has been a real pleasure.
  • Be honest, if you intend to use the land for commercial reasons, say so at the on set, if you don’t and then do it sneakily, it’s a breach of trust and trust is the foundation to any relationship.
  • What are you prepared to give in return, this maybe in time or money, heck, I’ve rounded up and sheared sheep, cut trees, chopped firewood and much more, it’s their land and if you want to use it, they have a right to ask for payment.

And finally the Management, of both the land and the relationship with the landowner, this is probably the hardest but most rewarding part.


  • Be responsible for your actions, do you really need to chop down trees for firewood when there is a mass of dead stuff about, you might even need to bring fire logs into the site so as not to cause too much disturbance and remember, if you do burn all the deadfall, what will you use to build shelters with, if shelter building was something you wanted to do that is.
  • Leave the alcohol fuelled binge parties for another time and place, apart from the obvious safety issues of people being completely wrecked in the woods, if the land owner decides to drop in and see you, and they will, your not exactly going to create a good image in this manner. A hip flask with a hearty supper and good company around the fire at night I find is fine and assists with a goodnights sleep, I’ve had landowners join me in this and it’s been very welcomed.
  • Leave the place as you find it – simple, I have woods that I have exclusive permissions on and throughout the year I will leave the campfire ‘chute and base set up but every now and then it will get removed and re-located giving the ground chance to recover, which takes no time at all.
  • Make time to talk to the landowner, not just when you want something off them, offer to help out, you’ll love it and I find a little something at Christmas time is always appreciated, I would advise a good bottle of Scotch.

Finally, to complete this article I recently took a walk upon a local estate I have access to and asked the ‘old man’ what his thoughts where about my original approach all those years ago when I first asked for access to his land, and this was before Ray Mears became the household name he is today, so I couldn’t use that angle and he simply said “I liked you, you where polite”.

Thanks for reading

Timboggle
 
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timboggle

Nomad
Nov 1, 2008
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Hereford, UK
Very well done :approve:
Clear good advice, and so relevant.
Thanks for posting this Ged :) This one's a sticky :D

cheers,
Toddy

cheers Mary, allways a pleasure and no problem at all :)

I let my spell check go into cruise contol at one point - I meant to say .."interpret" and not "interoperate" in the research part :lmao:

I hope it helps

:D
 

Shewie

Mod
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Dec 15, 2005
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Good stuff Ged, should be very useful for directing the newbies.

Is it worth adding the few places where it is legal to "wild camp" in the UK without seeking permission first. Maybe quoting the information the authorities offer on their own websites, or is that potentially causing a headache for Tony and the team ?
 

timboggle

Nomad
Nov 1, 2008
456
3
Hereford, UK
Good stuff Ged, should be very useful for directing the newbies.

Is it worth adding the few places where it is legal to "wild camp" in the UK without seeking permission first. Maybe quoting the information the authorities offer on their own websites, or is that potentially causing a headache for Tony and the team ?

Thanks Rich, I thought about going into all that, but I ended up sticking to the remit of the task mate, which was allways about seeking and gaining permission from a landowner, ie, farmlands, woodlands, mainly lowland areas in Britain, etc.

Wild camping I feel is a topic in it's own right and I was looking at putting together another article covering this over the next week or so which will include links and resources if it would help,

thanks for all your feedback guys, much appreciated

:D
 
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Toddy

Mod
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Jan 21, 2005
36,710
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Good stuff Ged, should be very useful for directing the newbies.

Is it worth adding the few places where it is legal to "wild camp" in the UK without seeking permission first. Maybe quoting the information the authorities offer on their own websites, or is that potentially causing a headache for Tony and the team ?

If someone searches it out, makes it into one post, it could go into this thread.
I suspect that the Mods would much appreciate this, and certainly from my point of view, I would happily see posts like Ged's cherrypicked out and put into a finished information only thread.

cheers,
M
 

bivouac

Forager
Jan 30, 2010
234
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Three Counties
Wild camping I feel is a topic in it's own right and I was looking at putting together another article covering this over the next week or so which will include links and resources if it would help

It would very much help, Ged, and I shall look forward to reading it. Many thanks.
 

cwillson

Forager
Jul 14, 2007
136
2
Cotswolds
Excellent article Ged. I am just embarking on trying to contact local landowners to see if I can get permission to use their woodland.

I have managed, through posting a message on the work intranet, to get in touch with a couple who own some woodland about 45 minutes from me. I'm going to go and see them soon hopefully and offered either my time helping to maintain the woodlands every now and then, or to cross their palms with silver. As it turns out they seem to be more interested in the labour, which suits me perfectly.

I've also searched online for 'farms in oxfordshire' and came up with a great website which lists loads.

I've then copied these into a spreadsheet and broken the addresses down. I have 43 in the local are which I can now contact. The website lists their phone numbers, but I'm thinking that ringing them might be a little too intrusive. I'm going to send a letter to all of them soon (I just have to compose it in the right manner!) to ask if they have any woodlands they might allow me to use.

Any tips? I've got a rough idea, but want to make sure I include any points that farmers will be most interested in, i.e. reference to avoiding hunt days etc. and care for the land but, asides from the points you mention above, are there any other things they will want to hear do you think?

Anyway, excellent 'sticky' - thanks for posting! :)

Chris
 
A

Arwenydd

Guest
awesome article..very informative..shall copy n paste it into a document for ease of access n reference when i set about my tour..
Arwenydd.
 

Agile

Forager
Dec 27, 2006
179
2
Bournemouth, Dorset
I've been trying a "cold calling" method (as I work Monday-> Friday) by phoning up farms from across the region. The method which I found worked rather well is type in "Farms" in google maps, and then zoom in. You'll get a red dot over each farm, with thier contact details, and can see from the satellite view if the farm has any woodland near it. It's hard to pick out boundaries, but it's certainly a way to get started.

From phoning 8 people I've had 5 replies of "we've sold our farmland", 1 reply of "yes", one of "no" and I have one person who is yet to get back to me. The "yes" did come with a caveat that I must bring some of my own wood, as his wood has already had much of the firewood gathered.

Like Tony says, it takes a while, but once you have a relationship you can build on, they will soon realise you're just as interested in keeping their wood safe as they are. I also think it's helped that I've asked for camping permissions this Friday, which given the current level of predicted rain lets them know I'm not just a fair-weather camper.
 
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pango

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Feb 10, 2009
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Fife
Hi Ged and before I go any further, I'll thank you in advance for answering most of the questions I would have asked had you not put the thought, time and effort into the original post. I'm not so happy that you've done me out of the chance of getting my name at the top of a dead cert Sticky, though!

As I'm writing, my first thoughts are that I agree entirely with your comments that, "trust is the foundation to any relationship" and "... most of all a sense of respect for other people’s property and good manners..." is paramount if we wish to retain access to a particular piece of land whilst nurturing goodwill and a reciprocative arrangement.

We Scots are most fortunate of all the nations of Britain with regard to our rights of access and over-nighting, but I do believe that, regardless of statutory rights, we still have a responsibility to be courteous, polite and tactful in seeking a landowner's approval where appropriate and in circumstances where we wish to use the land repeatedly. Having said that, I have no qualms whatsoever in falling-back on statutory rights of access where necessary and in circumstances where courtesy and manners are not reciprocated.

To get to the point, while exploring my home county, The Kingdom of Fife, in search of a suitable building to be utilised as a bothy (there are hundreds of open bothies in Scotland but to my knowledge, none in Fife.), over the wonderful rush of Spring we've experienced this weekend, and happened to stumble across the most beautiful little mixed woodland containing oak, ash, hazel, willow, elder, hawthorn, blackthorn, gaen (wild cherry), studded with bright primroses and with strawberries, rasps, a gooseberry, red or blackcurrant all just starting to show spring growth. The wood is of about 3 - 4 acres, enclosed by a dry stane dyke, complete with a spring of cold, clear water and the most astonishing turf-roofed, wall-less woodsman's shelter of about 6 X 4 mtrs containing a solid carpenter's bench with 2 woodworking vises. The vises are siezed with rust and the shelter needs some repair but it is clear that it hasn't been used for decades. At the far end of the wood from the shelter is a huge active badger set and there were signs of roe, rabbit and red squirrel. I scared a field hare when entering the place and the woodland was alive with bird-life.

Unfortunately, I also saw quite a number of pheasants during the hour or two I spent there, so am concerned that there may well be a shooting syndicate in the equation, and am worried that approaching the farmer/owner in my present state of mind might well descend into a discussion about Land Reform, the Redistribution of Wealth and a small mixed woodland becoming the seed of The People's Republic of Fife!

It is a Secret Garden which has clearly been waiting all this time for me to come crashing through the brambles.

As you'll understand, I've been so excited for the last couple of days, I'm beginning to be concerned with regard to the integrity of my bowels. Please advise!

Yours, in desperation,

Pango.
 
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E

ex member coconino

Guest
I had an interesting chat recently with the owners of some woods where I sometimes camp. They said they'd let some "Ray Mears types" use the woods after they'd been promised "you won't be able to tell we've been here". In the end it was apparently all too obvious where they'd been, with shelters left standing, lines left in the trees and waste left uncleared, the result being that the next people who ask to use these beautiful woods will likely be refused. So it behoves us to live up to our promises and not overestimate our abilities in bushcraft, not least because we risk spoiling things for those who come after us.
 

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