View Full Version : wild camping - legal view

30-10-2004, 12:45
comments made originally in wildcamping 1st time round. my apologies to the original authors for nicking their work but I thought it important enough to have a copy.

Where are we allowed to wild camp?
You have asked a very good question that I think we all need a legal definition from a;- dare I say it, A LAWYER.
AS I understand it you are allowed to stop in lay-by’s at the side of the road for month and a day under the old gypsy laws.
Common land is ok so long as it is not farmed and you don’t do any damage whilst there.
Private land you are not allowed and the owner can have you evicted but it is a civil offence and not a criminal one so they have to go to court and the costs of that I was told by a police constable will be in excess of £10,000.
Car parks; be very careful as most councils and companies have all the law sorted and can remove you physically or clamp you, read the small print on the boards.
Really the bottom line is play it by ear don’t start ranting on to the police or demi-god officials about your rights give him a cup of tea and ask where the best place to go is. They will usually oblige. They are struggling with the law as well they may sound confident but it is a minefield for them.
Last year I found a lovely place to stop at the rear of a RAF base. After about 2 hrs I had a visit from the military plod and was told to move in no uncertain manner they were quoting me the prevention of terrorists act or something. I told them to go away (in good olde Anglo Saxon) and gave them my name address and phone number and told them to do a check on me and if they wanted me to go I would go for civilian police only.!
10 mins later a civil plod squad car came screaming up and the guy was invited in and given a cup of tea. I pointed out that the land I was on was not mod property and that there was no sign to say who's land it was so I had perfect right to stay and if the civil police moved me on I would park outside the guard house on the double lines. He thought he had me there and said with a smile that if I did do that he would have me towed away.....His smile disappeared when I pointed out to him that our van is regd. as a disabled vehicle and had orange badges... with a sigh he smiled and said you got me there and agreed that the mod plod were a load of plonkers and had no jurisdiction and he would sort it out. I was left alone for the rest of my stay without any more trouble. When we left we went around to the main gate and waved to the police sergeant on the gate and he very be grudgingly waved back.
Wild camping can be ok, but only ever these days very short-term, probably a day or so. Any longer and you get lumped with the new age travellers, etc.
Make sure you know your rights, just in case there's a copper out there who doesn't know what the law is. There are plenty out there that just try it on because they have a nice blue uniform.
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is now used with regard to wild camping. It was introduced on the back of raves and N.A.T.s and all the hassle that went on at Stonehenge....
Have a look at the government’s own website containing the act:
http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1994/Ukpga..._en_1.htmScroll (http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1994/Ukpga_19940033_en_1.htmScroll) down to the sections on trespass and especially the section headed "Powers to remove unauthorised campers".
Hope that gives a clearer definition of what’s legal and what’s not.... Basically there's no "right" to stay anywhere, other than on someone’s land with their permission.
Thanks to all those hippies 10-15 years ago, you can be asked to move on at any time and failure to comply can land you in a whole heap of trouble.
If you stay in a lay-by or any part of a highway, like a grass verge, then the local authority can ask you to move on. They first have to know you're there of course, but once you've been spotted and they ask you to move, then you have to move.
RLD;-(I can’t understand WHY! It is not a local authority’s land.
THEY work for US.
Therefore, the land belongs to US). If you are on privately owned land then yes, but all highways belong to the people and that is US.
The Police have powers to move you from landowners land if there are two people camping and (a) you've damaged property or land or (B) you've been abusive to the landowner when asked to leave.
In this instance, damage to the land could include ruts formed in the field by the tyres, so they can force you to leave under most circumstances. This also includes common land if asked to leave by a commoner.
Of course, once asked, most people will comply and move on, so no problem, but it's as well to be aware that you've really no rights...
Service stations started putting up the time limits for parking at the same time this legislation went through.
Thanks; I can see that my understanding of the laws is completely wrong. It just goes to show how little that plod I came into contact really knew about the subject. I think what you said about moving when asked is the important bit that will get you some leniency, but we all have had dealings with the bad hair day plod sometime in our life.
Many thanks, there would seem to be two sections that might apply here.
>>77. Power of local authority to direct unauthorised campers to leave land. <<
But this would presumably only apply after a camper had been there for a certain period AND had a formal eviction notice served. However there&#39;s also:
>>61. Power to remove trespassers on land. <<
But his states -
>> If the senior police officer present at the scene reasonably believes that two or more persons are trespassing on land ...<<
ed;- or more&#39;, eh?? What about a sole traveller, I wonder?
Naturally you&#39;d move when asked. I would anyway. But there&#39;s little chance of being arrested, or having your vehicle impounded. Sounds like reasonableness all round is the best approach.
Ed;- and remaining in a condition where you are able to move on (ie not having that relaxing bottle of wine....or in my case, those nice little pills to take away the pain
I remember once camping in a car park by the sea - only because all the campsites were full & we had nowhere else to go. The council bloke knocked on the van door in the morning, and woke up the dogs&#33; We had two big Ridgebacks in with us - and they of course started barking and looking vicious (which they weren&#39;t at all). He looked a bit taken aback to say the least - as we hastened to explain that they were very nice dogs really, just startled. But he was a very pleasant and helpful man and explained that we shouldn&#39;t have been there & could we please not stay the next night, or else he&#39;d have to take action.
I agree with you in everything you have said and any one who knows me will say that I really do practice my manners. I can assure you I did not give anyone grief and did say to the civil police that if it was going to cause a security problem with the mod then I would move straight away. It was them that told me to stay in the end.
RLD;- My best experiences
1/Killin; Scotland. We had arrived for the games in this small but very attractive village. We parked up in the town car park in a corner. There were 2 other vans there and a council bloke came up and asked us if we were planning on staying overnight. We said yes we’d like to and he said “I’ll leave the toilets open for you then". They couldn’t have been nicer and we put up the awning and tent too and stayed for 3 days spending our money there.
2/Picnic spot Garelochead. Near Faslane submarine base. 30th December ’01..2am and I heard an engine outside, just ticking over. I knew it was plod so I got up and out to see him. He didn’t say anything so I explained I was up for Hogmanhay and was just staying over the one night. Ok says he in a broad English accent so I asked him where he was from. “Oxford”
“You’re lost” I told him and he chuckled and came in for a warming cuppa. No problems.
3/however, at our favourite place, Rowardennan, where we have wild camped for 6 years now and our friend who told us about it has wild camped for 30 years having been taken there by his father who had used it for 60 years. It is now part of the National Park and has Rangers there,
One decided we couldn’t wild camp and there were notices all over which we ignored. We told him he had no right to even put notices up. He threatened us with all sorts, the most amusing being “ the police are doing a PRACTICE DRUGS RAID here tonight.”
4/In Dunoon for the games we had joined an elderly couple that we had become friends with. They belong to an old traveller family and had used this car park for 50 years to park and camp in for the games. This year a council official came round and told us that all the numbers had been taken and if anyone overnighted then they would be summonsed.
He then looked at Alec and said “But the council don’t own that land there or there” pointing out the site in front of the car park where a building had been demolished and a piece of ground marked out for 2 parking bays at the side of the car park. We moved down to the waste ground and had no further trouble.

My comments:
I believe in the freedom of every individual in this country to do what he/she wants to do PROVIDED it doesn’t cause any other person an ACTUAL problem.
These officials need to be told that WE and NOT THEY are the bosses and if we want the freedom to wild camp then it is our right to do so on land owned by all, ie. Any land not privately owned.