Earlier this week, a business called UK Wild Camp emerged claiming it had backing from two national parks and DEFRA to run a scheme that would charge people for the privilege of wild camping. After a huge backlash online, with sustained pressure from MyOutdoors in particular, that company has since issued a statement announcing the abandonment of its plans.
The scheme hoped to link up landowners with prospective wild campers via a website called UK Wild Camp. Coordinates for specific spots where the landowner would permit camping for one night would be provided following payment of £20.
“DEFRA and the Lake District and South Downs National Parks have found some amazing pitches for us, in some stunning locations” stated UK Wild Camp on its homepage where it also made an appeal to wild campers to start booking and for landowners to sign on as hosts.
Today (Monday 3 May) UK Wild Camp issued the following statement:
“Thanks to all of you who have expressed a point of view about our wild camping pilot. It’s amazing to get such a deluge of comment and correspondence, from a wide range of opinions.
“We have had more than 3,000 expressions of support from landowners and would-be campers, wanting to try a night in the wild. We believe there is a real demand for a service like ours, and we’d still love to launch a scheme that brings more people into the wild, without disrupting those that are there already.
“The £20 fee (per pitch, not per person) was intended to incentivise landowners to participate. Part of what we were trying to establish in the pilot was the correct price, but wherever we ended up, half it would go to the owner of the land, 25% to the National Parks and the rest to run the platform.
“Set against that support, and as one of you put it, we seem to have inadvertently kicked over a hornet’s nest among the existing wild camping community.
“We’re wild campers too and thought the idea of campaigning to remove the current restrictions would be welcome. We also thought that running a booking scheme for entry-level wild campers, one that would provide them with the security and legitimacy that currently causes them concerns about camping wild, would be understood and welcome by the wider group. We now see this is not the case!
“With this is mind, we are going to suspend our service and have a re-think about how we might revise it. We won’t describe any future version of our service as “wild camping” because for many of you that specifically means free and unplanned camping. Nor are we likely to stray into a debate around relaxing the laws on wild camping, because we now understand this is a highly charged area.
“We’ll continue to respond to all who are in touch and, as we rethink our plans, we will be back in contact to consult about how this service might evolve in the future. It’s also worth reminding readers that this is a private initiative rather than one initiated by DEFRA or any of the National Parks. We approached them, and they were good enough to encourage us in our pilot. DEFRA also provided a small amount of seed funding. All complaints to us please, rather than them.
Aside from certain areas of Dartmoor, wild camping is illegal in England and Wales, however the practice is very common and enforcement of any regulation is by and large low.”
Here are some of the tweets we spotted when news of the scheme first began circulating at the end of last week.
“This seems like a hijacking of ‘wild camping’” – @Jason_X_Lee
“Maybe if campsites were more affordable and not filled with party tents we might be inclined to use them occasionally. We (family of 5) were asked for £38.50 for 1 night. We only have 3×3 tarp!” – @JustUpTheTrail
“Then it isn’t wild camping is it. If you have to book on, pay a fee and then get sent a grid reference with your pitch, it’s completely against wild camping. I’ll camp where I like. I’ll move on in the morning. I’ll respect the countryside whilst I’m at it.” – @tykes_toons
If you suck the joy, freedom & spontaneity out of wild camping with a booking system, designated areas & charges, then it isn’t wild camping” – @bjpaddy
Indeed, I could see the value in a sort of wild camping education scheme. More education in LNT ethics for wild campers is certainly needed. But this doesn’t sound like it has an educational angle at all…” – @alex_roddie
“Thank god I’m Scottish.” – @wullsg