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Friday, 28 November 2014

Bushcraft and the Law; Stealth Camping

Stealth fighter
The F-117 'Stealth Fighter' (By Jon Sullivan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons) but should we be adopting stealth tactics when we are camping and bushcrafting?

The phrase 'wild camping' is normally used to describe camping away from an established camp site, where you might have no access to running water or wash facilities. Most often associated with moorlands and uplands us bushcrafters seek something slightly different from the normal 'wild camp' as we are not only looking for a remote area to camp but somewhere we can collect fire wood, have a fire, and whittle. 

My 'Wild Camp' in the Southern Alps of New Zealand in 2005.

So are there bushcraft friendly 'Wild Camping' areas?

Unfortunately these are few and far between, even to wild camp in upland areas you need the landowners permission unless there is a by-law which grants permission to camp, such as on Dartomoor where wild camping is permitted given certain rules are taken into account. No camping on farm land, on enclosed areas of the moor or on sites of archaeological interest etc... (Dartmoor national Park http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/visiting/vi-enjoyingdartmoor/camping

But even where this permission is granted that doesn't give you a right to have fires, cut wood or do other bushcraft tasks. What you need is specific permission from a landowner to carry out the activities that you have in mind. Permission to erect brushwood shelters, have fires, carry knives and axes, shoot or trap rabbits etc.. 

A partly completed brush shelter, building these structures can denude woodlands of important dead wood habitats for invertebrates and if left intact can give bushcrafters a bad name. 
The problem with stealth camping tactics, and I can understand the frustration with not being able to find a suitable place to practice your hobby, is that it gives other bushcrafters a bad name. Accessing land without permission, lighting fires etc.. can disrupt the work of gamekeepers and other people who work on the land, and however stealthy you are; ultimately you are trespassing.   

We may feel that we have a moral right to access the countryside for recreation but unfortunately the law does not always allow this, although we do benefit from much more lenient access laws than have traditionally been imposed in this country we still don't have the right to unlimited access to the woodland areas we might like to bushcraft in. 

I can't say with honesty that I have never camped anywhere I didn't have permission to be but I haven't recently and I intend to keep it that way. As a gamekeeper and deer stalker by training I recognise the disruption that can be caused by people accessing land without permission and luckily I currently have access to plenty of areas  to practice my bushcrafting but there have been times when all I've had to practice in is my own garden which never seems enough.

There is a lot to be said for garden bushcrafting, I lit my first friction fire in the garden, and my son learned to use a knife in the garden. This picture, taken a few years ago shows him starting on his first ever whittling project. 

My advice would be to seek the permission of a local farmer who has pockets of unmanaged woodland on his land, maybe get involved in beating on a local pheasant shoot and ask the keeper if you might be able to use an out of the way corner for some bushcraft practice but please don't trespass and when you do find a place to practice always follow the country code






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