Petition to legalise wild camping in England and Wales

Published 8 September 2011

In 2005 an important piece of walker-friendly legislation became law in England and Wales. The concept of Access Land was introduced; defined parts of the country where people had the right to walk wherever they wanted. Don’t want to walk on the footpath? Prefer to walk 2m to the left of it? Absolutely fine. Go ahead. Make your day. If you’re on Access Land, it’s all a-okay.

In Scotland something else happened. In 2005 the Land Reform (Scotland) Act came in to force. It didn’t introduce the concept of Access Land to Scotland. No. Not one bit.

Instead it did something far wider reaching. It gave the public a general right to access ALL open countryside. There were some exceptions of course, but in general if you were out in the open countryside you were free to walk anywhere you wanted. And not just walk either. The rights extended to riding a bike or a horse too. Just as long as you behaved responsibly, the law was on your side.

If the difference between the two sets of legislation wasn’t big enough, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act went one step further. Not only could you walk anywhere, cycle all over the place and lead your horse down any bit of countryside you liked, you could wild camp too, and for up to three nights to boot. Just don’t do it near buildings or roads, or in enclosed fields and it’s not a problem.

Sadly that’s not true in England or Wales.

Even in the Lake District, the UK’s undeniable capital of outdoor pursuits, wild camping is certainly not allowed by anyone, although if you obey a large list of rules you might be tolerated by a landowner. And then only if you camp well above the highest fell wall, have no more than two tents and have a tent that blends in to the landscape. But if you do wild camp in the Lakes – and many people do – and you do it without permission, well the law is not on your side.

Having wild camped myself in Scotland and having wanted to do so in England (and would have had it not been for the rain) I think it’s time the law changed. Differences in the law between Scotland and England/Wales are common. But just because they exist doesn’t mean they have to forever.

A petition to legalise wild camping in England and Wales was recently created on the Government’s e-Petitions website. I’ve signed it, and I hope more people do so. If you’d like our politicians to discuss why we have lesser access laws in England and Wales, you might want to as well.

You can sign the petition over on the e-Petitions website.

Your Comments

alan dawe

13 January 2012 at 12:45 am

should be made like the rest of europe

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