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News | Wild Campers ‘Caught’ By Thermal Imaging Cameras

With the rise in post-lockdown wild campers, are landowners becoming more vigilant?

With lockdown easing and stay-at-home rules being relaxed but restrictions on overseas travel still in place, the number of people heading to the UK’s hills to wild camp seems to be surging at the moment. And while the majority of campers, are respectful of the ‘rules’ around this type of outdoor recreation and the principles of Leave No Trace, it seems there are increasing incidences of what’s been termed ‘dirty camping’ – where groups of people are camping in an anti-social way, most notably by leaving large amounts of litter behind. 

Could this be causing landowners to take firmer action to prevent wild campers pitching up? A recent thread in the Wild Camping UK Facebook group would suggest so.

“I pleaded to be allowed to stay but to no avail.”

One member of the group cautioned other members about camping on Bamford Edge in the Peak District where he believed thermal imaging cameras led to him and other campers within the area being ‘discovered’ and subsequently asked to pack up and leave. 

Speaking to Outdoors Magic, the camper, who wishes to remain anonymous within this article, told us that he had settled in for the night above Ladybower Reservoir when he heard the sound of a quad bike approaching. Moments later his tent was illuminated by lights.

The chap asked me if I knew I wasn’t allowed to wild camp there,” said the camper. “I acknowledged that I did, but it had not been a problem in the past. I was solo camping, adhering to the principles of Leave No Trace and I would be gone at first light. He told me I wouldn’t be allowed to stay the night and would have to leave immediately. I pleaded to be allowed to stay but to no avail.”

Ladybower Reservoir is a popular beauty spot in the Peak District National Park. Photo: Matthew Feeney

The man, who appeared to be an estate worker, is said to have then instructed the camper that he could “use reasonable force” to escort him off the land. He also claimed that he had used thermal imaging to locate the camper and a number of others that evening. 

The wild camper said that he has “no reason to disbelieve” what the man said to him. “He even told me that the cameras cost £3,000 each and they had three of them. He said wild campers stuck out like a sore thumb. My suspicion is that they were bought to locate early stages of fires given the fire risk in the area rather than specifically to locate campers.”

Despite the reference to reasonable force, the exchange is said to have been good natured. “Probably, because I wasn’t aggressive and was compliant,” explained the camper, who, following the sudden incursion, began the hour-long trek back to his car.


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