Image courtesy of RSPB
Samantha Laurie explains why families are increasingly looking for a spot of wild camping in Surrey
The rustle of the flysheet, the scurry of early morning rabbits, the lingering smell of embers. Camping can be a wonderful thing. But at its heart is a fundamental contradiction: the pursuit of a rural idyll often leads instead to an uncomfortable proximity to jabbering, tent-dwelling neighbours and malodorous caravans and toilet blocks.
No surprise then that many are turning their backs on campsites and heading off grid for a spot of wild camping. The idea of putting up a tent in a remote spot, cooking over a campfire, relying only on your own wits and moving on in the morning is an eco-holidayer’s dream – despite the fact that it’s illegal across much of England.
In any case, there are ways around the ban. Like heading for Scotland, where the right to wild camp is enshrined in access legislation and you can pitch a tent almost anywhere. This is in stark contrast to England, where almost all land is privately owned and the only place where the practice is officially sanctioned is the Dartmoor National Park. Elsewhere, would-be wild campers must ask permission of the landowner first.
In practice, however, most farmers won’t mind at all, provided that you not only ask, but stick to the wild camping code of conduct: pitch late and leave early; keep out of the way of dwellings and animals; don’t wash with soap or detergent; don’t light a fire without permission; bury your poo with a trowel; take all rubbish (even other people’s).
Happily, a growing number of woodland campsites in Surrey are now offering a more rugged experience:
A little further afield at Dernwood Farm in East Sussex, wheelbarrows are available to help you ferry your belongings through the woods.
Finally, the owners of Wowo Farm, also in East Sussex , positively encourage the simple joys of camping: fires, whittling, foraging and sharing food with strangers. Free camping for professional musicians happy to entertain around the fire.