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Aside from Dartmoor, wild camping in England and Wales is illegal, it’s against the law, it’s naughty. If you can be bothered to look up the word ‘camp’ or ‘camping’ in the dictionary, it’s almost certain there’ll be mention of tents or temporary structures … so what if there are no ‘structures’?

Imagine you’re strolling across the beach of some south coast seaside town. It’s a pleasantly warm afternoon, the sun is out and all is well with the world. You spot an old dear, relaxing in a deck chair … no, hang on, forget the deck chair, it could be viewed as a structure, we’ll start again. This time you spy a middle aged chap lay down on the sand, his hands behind his head, hat pulled down over his eyes and he’s emitting a walrus like noise that lets you know he’s sound asleep. I think it would be pretty obvious to all that he’s not camping, he’s simply fallen asleep while relaxing on the beach.

Would peoples opinion change if our snoozing day tripper pulled a picnic blanket over himself? I don’t think it would, I imagine most people would just think he was a little chilly. How about if he had something on the floor to lie on? No, I think the majority of other beach goers wouldn’t think that was anything unusual. The only thing I can think of that would alter peoples perception of the situation would be the time of day … once the shadows lengthen, the beach starts to empty as people head for home or wonder off in search of food. So, what would people think if you swam against the tide and arrived as they were leaving?

Camping? … or just having for a rest?

Your behaviour would be no different to that of anyone else on the beach that day. You’re simply planning to lie down and go to sleep, the only difference is that when you do it, it’ll be dark. I hate to be the one to break this to the general populace but the night time world is the same as the daytime one, it’s just that you can’t see so well. Nothing else happens, things don’t alter … it just goes dark.

It seems odd that because you’ve chosen moon-bathing to sun-bathing, many people will deem what you’re doing as wrong when in reality, it’s exactly the same as they’ve spent the day doing. 

This is most certainly is camping.

If we finish our ice cream, remove ourselves from the beach and head for the hills, then the issue of land ownership may become an issue … or does it? You’re riding along and you spot a nice flat spot in the corner of a field, it’s perfect over-night accommodation and too tempting to pass up, so you blow your mat up, roll out your bivvy bag and settle down for the night. The reality is that, in 99% of cases no one will ever know you’ve been there and life will carry on as though you never were. However, the land you slept on belongs to someone and that someone didn’t give you permission to be on their land … you are trespassing, you’re a bad person.

How would things be if you didn’t spend the night in the corner of the field? What if you found a nice dry, flat bit on the bridleway? After all, you have a legal entitlement to be there, the countryside doesn’t close at 6pm and there are no time restraints … it’s a bridleway, not a pay and display car park. You haven’t erected any type of structure, you’ve simply laid down to rest and if you happen to fall asleep, then you must have been really, really tired.


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