One of the simplest, most accessible and most rewarding adventures we can have is Wild Camping.
Anyone, regardless of age and ability, can have a go at this and it needn't require great long hike into the remote wilds of the Scottish Highland.
First of the legal side of things. Wild camping is not permitted by law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (but is also classed as a civil not a criminal offence) unless participants have permission from the landowner (there will always be someone as all land in these countries is owned). However, practically a number of places tolerate wild camping as long as a code of ethics is adhered to. Good examples of these locations are Snowdonia and the Lake District National Parks. Both locations' official websites have pages dedicated to dealing with the issue of wild camping and his allowance along with details of the codes of practice one should stick to.
Snowdonia. (Frequently Asked Question - currently the 5th questions down deals with wild camping)
Dartmoor: Dartmoor is exceptional in that wild camping is actually actively allowed as long as the group size is small (think one or two tents), you spend no more than two consecutive nights on the same spot and you camp more than 100m from public roads, enclosures or other restricted areas. A full map of the areas where you can wild camp under these conditions can be found at the following webpage:
One of my favourite places to wind camp is on beaches. Like the rest of England, NI and Wales it is not permitted unless you have the land-owner permission but these hidden spots are often more accessible than the hills for some people and young children.
Scotland is much more easy going than the rest of the UK and the right to roam applies almost anywhere. You can wild camp in any area of wild land as long as you follow the general code.
The official guide from Scotland's Tourist Department offers some advice:
and you can download the official guide to how you should conduct yourself here.
The only exception to all this is around Loch Lomond where camping is forbidden due to past campers leaving rubbish, damaging the area and generally getting drunk and upsetting the locals. Which goes to prove the freedom to wild camp is a privilege not a right and if we wish to continue to experience the joys it brings we must apply a bit of common sense and respect to our approach.
The most important parts of the general code of conduct are:
-Take all Litter away
-Leave the site as you found it -no holes, no fire damage, no litter, no damage to vegetation. And if you see any litter (even if it's not yours), pick it up and take it home...it's all good karma.
-Minimise disturbance to people and wildlife (camp out of site, minimise noise and light)
-Keep groups small
-Only stay for one night (in some places, e.g. Dartmoor and Scotland, you can stay for more)
-Any toilet duties should be carried out as discretely as possible and should be a minimum of 30m from any water course.
A simple guide of how one should conduct oneself whilst wild-camping can be summarised as:
"If, when you leave in the morning, there is no evidence of your visit and no-one will ever know you've been there then you've probably done things right"
Having dealt with the legal side of things next month I'll look at some of the essential, basic kit you'll need to have a safe and comfortable night out under the stars.