The debate over whether or not to legitimise wild camping is catching fire.
Various forums are debating the issue including this one, here, which I visited tonight and was sufficiently roused to compose a lengthy response.
The post hasn’t appeared yet, presumably awaiting vetting or the site’s administrator to authorise my posts as a new member, so I’ll post it here to give it an earlier airing. Please read it in conjunction with the original thread here.
Well, I just had to register in order to respond to some of the comments here which leave me feeling pretty cold.
Im being overwhelmed by the Im alright Jack attitude (if it aint broke dont fix it) of most posters who seem to prefer the idea of sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring the fact that, according to the law, youve no legitimate right to be woken in the morning by the song of skylark or the call of curlew.
If the law is to be adhered to, as it stands, youd all be tucked up in your own beds at night waiting to be woken by the grumbling sound of traffic every morning. Will you be happy simply to dream of wild places?
Most of the arguments being wielded here in favour of maintaining the status quo are the very same arguments that landowners used to lobby against the increased RIGHTS of access that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2001 gave us.
Litter. Vandalism. Noise. Fires.
None of these has anything to do with responsible, considerate Leave No Trace wild camping as is practised by the majority of genuine hillgoers in Britain.
Each of these is a separate offence, which can be dealt with, quite rightly, by existing laws covering litter, public nuisance, vandalism, criminal damage and more. They certainly should not be used to oppose a legitimate right to wild camp.
Any claim that litter, vandalism, noise and fires etc are arguments against wild camping are akin to saying that we should all be banned from shops because a handful are bound to shoplift. Perhaps driving should be banned because theres bound to be someone who breaks the speed limit?
There are people whove stated in this thread that theyve camped wild, left no trace and moved on without being caught and that to draw attention to the illegal status of wild camping would only cause them problems. That has a very selfish ring to it; Im sure most of those campaigners who took part in the Kinder Trespass 76 years ago had regularly hiked the forbidden moors of the Peak without being challenged every time, but they didnt just keep their heads down in case campaigning drew attention to their private enjoyment, they protested and went to jail to win us the right to walk on those same moors.
Its not enough, either, to claim that idiots would get the wrong idea there would have to be a process of education here, a process in which Trail and Country Walking magazines could, along with other UK outdoor titles, play a part.
Bear in mind that someone whos going to abuse the right to camp isnt going to wait for wild camping to be legalised before they go out and make that mess though chances are theyve already done it somewhere. A legitimate right to wild camp, accompanied by rules similar to those embodied in the Scottish Access Code, could lay down a best practice code. Anyone breaks it, theyre prosecuted.
Theres no call being made, either, for the right to camp in peoples gardens, just as there was never an argument in the CROW Act for people to be given the right to walk through gardens, and to suggest so seems a little naïve. Nor has there been a problem with wild camping on roadsides in Scotland: camping on a roadside isnt wild camping. If theres damage the perpetrators can be dealt with by the law.
Existing problems at Styhead cant be cited as a reason for maintaining the illegal status of wild camping, either. Again, littering is an offence. A code of conduct could help educate more folk in the proper ways of wild camping. Legalisation could be the start of a process of greater awareness and understanding of the practise.
I think leave it as it is to protect the wild camping that we have, rather than make it legal which may lead to uncontrolled wild camping and all its side effects, says one poster.
Wild camping ISNT protected; as the law stands, we DONT have any wild camping. What wild camping we do have IS uncontrolled.
Titaniumdude gives the truth to the lie when he points out that wild camping is accepted, promoted and has worked on Dartmoor for many years; theres no reason why it shouldnt work in England and Wales.
The debate is a worthy one, granted, but I cant believe that so many confirmed outdoors folk are posting here to argue for one of their favourite pastimes to remain outlawed.
I dont imagine for a minute that legalisation of wild camping will lead to hundreds more heading into the hills with a tent and a six pack turning the popular wild camping haunts into rubbish tips with people all over the place. Granting legal status to wild campers is likely to only benefit those who already wild camp responsibly and those few currently too timid to try due to the threat of persecution. Theres no realistic danger of them demanding toilets and clean water. If they wanted that the solution is simple theyre not wild campers in the first place and theyre not going to camp somewhere wild; theyre going to go to a commercial campground, just as they do now, just as theyve always done.
What worries me most about the general overall tone of the comments here is the lack of willingness to even add names to a petition calling for the legalisation of what we all already enjoy.
If backpackers arent going to fight for the right to backpack, who on Earth is?