TLIO advice in a nutshell:
- In England and Wales (not Scotland) it is still a criminal offence under the 1824 Vagrancy Act to sleep in a public place – but that doesn’t apply to private land.
- Any attempt by a private landowner or their agent, without good reason, to force a rough sleeper, or their property (tent), to move can be considered assault or theft, criminal offences.
- Rough sleeping is not allowed on private M.O.D. land, where bylaws generally prohibit all public camping.
So no one has a right to sleep outdoors wherever they want?
Wild camping is illegal then?
Not when you follow the A, B, C, D rule – that makes it all legal and good.
What is the A, B, C, D rule?
Ask the landowner’s permission.
Be discreet – camp away from roads and buildings.
Clean up and leave no trace.
Don’t stay more than one night.
OK, so apart from when following the A, B, C, D rule, wild camping is illegal?
Well… except when you’re in a place where permission is not required, like:
c) upland areas of Lakeland, north-west England
d) upland areas of Wales
e) upland areas of north-east England (the Pennines etc)
f) staying in or outside a bothy in England and Wales.
OK, apart from when you’re:
1) following the A, B, C, D rule
2) sleeping on top of a mountain
3) sleeping in most of Scotland
4) sleeping on most of Dartmoor
5) staying in or outside a bothy in England or Wales wild camping is illegal?
Except when you’re overnight fishing on the foreshore (that’s below sea level – usually when the tide is out) of a tidal river or beach, and you want to climb into your bivvy for some sleep until the tide returns. This is especially good for people who are nervous about heights (mountains and very high hills).
Right, so to summarise – apart from when you:
1) ask permission
2) sleep on a mountain
3) camp in Scotland
4) hike over Dartmoor
5) rest up in an English or Welsh bothy
6) or fish on the coast or a tidal river… wild camping is illegal?
Mmmmmm? Not when you’re navigating tidal waters (including rivers) in a kayak, canoe or small boat and you need to overnight on the foreshore until the high water returns.
OK! OK!! Apart from:
6) tidal rivers
7) and when you have permission… wild camping is illegal?
Nope! Wild camping is not illegal. It used to be, back in the 1930s. But it was decriminalised by Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1938.
So if it’s not illegal, why do people keep petitioning Parliament to make wild camping a right enshrined in law?
Because most people – including officials and landowners – are unclear about the law. That’s because it’s all a bit too fragmented and confusing.
So why doesn’t someone explain it?
OK. Good idea.
Then can I go sleep on a mountain without worrying about the law?
Wild Camping – paperback & eBook
Stephen Neale is a journalist and writer, and the author of our Camping by the Waterside. He set up the popular www.camponwater.com website, is the Editor of Outdoor Focus(the magazine for the Outdoor Writers’ and Photographers’ Guild) and spends most of his spare time outdoors navigating rivers, setting up camp with his family in the wilderness, and writing about how amazing our country is.
Totally unique – funny, clever and vital
By C. E. Thomson on 17 May 2015
There are lots of wild camping books out there but this one is totally unique. Everyone should carry a copy with them when they’re out in the wild.
Authors generally fudge the legal issues around wild camping, likely because there are lots of them and they’re quite convoluted. But in the first 50 pages or so of this book, Mr Neale skillfully and concisely explains what the laws are, where they came from and how to navigate them.
Take a copy of this book with you wherever you go and you should be able to stand your ground against any jobsworth who tries to tell you you’re breaking the law. Most of the time, Mr Neale reveals, you’re actually not. It is an eye-opening and invaluable handbook.
While a legal analysis of wild camping might sound dull, this is actually an extremely funny, entertaining read. The tone is conversational and the text is peppered with amusing anecdotes. For instance, Mr Neale describes farcical run-ins with jobsworths and bureaucrats – like the council worker who teaches bushcraft skills in the local park but then bans the children from using them – which make for hilarious reading.
The book contains tonnes of recommendations for areas to explore and wild camp in, and those sections are also filled with great stories.
Stephen has a healthy downer on the Normans and is interviewed (30 mins in) on mp3 here http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/81571