It must be said right off the bat that wild camping is not legal in England or Wales or most specifically in the Wye Valley or the wider catchment. Their, we've said it? But does this mean you don't go wild camping? Because let's face it there is a debate around it and not all of us agree to the imposed formal camping or confinement that the law stipulates. We're free spirits and we need to be close to nature and not necessarily in a camp site with families, toilet, showers and loos but somewhere wild that's just been discovered on the move.
Here we aim to help you experience your wild camp dreams in the Wye Valley and beyond in a way that's fun, positive and above all respectful. Having said this we do include a list of camp sites down below, which are nearby the Wye Valley trail specifically if that's what you're looking for or need if you just couldn't find a pitch.
We don't claim to be the primary experts in this field or the definitive guide. What we intend though is to share our own experiences and the knowledge of others so that you may feel confident to get out there amid the Wye Valley & Catchment and experience it for yourself in the most unobtrusive way possible.
It's legal in Scotland to wild camp because of the Scottish Land reform Act. This gives people free access to the land and or outdoors. Further South in Dartmoor it was legal up until a recent decision outlawed it. A model similar to Scotland would be ideal but it's not. In the mean time Dartmoor Park authorities are in discussion with commons owners to see if their is a work around it . So what do we do elsewhere and specifically here in the Wye basin?
Answers answers! Do we create a nearly Wyeld camping network in association with landowners throughout the Wye basin in awesome Wild type locations? We'd love to and have begun thinking about giving landowners and backpackers the opportunity in this fantastic region.
Meanwhile the urge to camp solo and wild is strong. So, see below for what to do if you're going to do that, which many are and which we do.
Wild At Heart
There are some very good established protocols out there to live by if your out backpacking and want to camp wild. This isn't for the seasoned trail heads although we may have some ideas they don't. No, this is for you the beginner who feels 'wild at heart' and wants to try out the experience and really does need to get out there.
The first thing that springs to mind is, not gear, but attitude. You have to have the right attitude to go wild camping when it's not essentially allowed. So, follow these pointers:
Leave no trace at all. What you take in you take back out with you. Think of the land owner, think of others and think of future experiences. In fact any stones, rocks or boulders moved place back in original position. It really is about being ghost like.
Were backpackers and don't tend to light fires. Our advice if you need a flame is to use a small bush-box and ensure only dead wood is used - scatter everything finely and cover over evidence of slightly charred ground or heat. As above large stones or rocks can be used to prevent this - just put them back where you found them.
Stay only one night if it's exposed or not far from a trail. In addition pitch as late as you can and set off early.
Be as quiet as possible in camp. It's not a festival you're attuning to nature and wanting to remain stealthy. Farm animals namely dogs can get easily disturbed by you so stick low and blend in. You may even want to think about camouflage or shelter that's not bright yellow.
Check for signs of life when choosing a camping spot. This comes with experience and knowing land owner behavior but they will check on livestock in the morning. If in a bottom field out of the way take note of the grass. Is it laying fallow? Is it growing? Chances are there is little activity in the field. Also are there newly formed tracks across the field from quad bike or 4 wheel drive? If not then it's likely there is a different rotation going on. It'll generally be safe to camp.
If caught by the landowner it's not a fight. They're on the right side of it and so it's a case of respect and courtesy. Where do you want me? I'm off now - sorry to have infringed upon you. But please bear in mind a good number of landowners and farmers are decent and don't at all mind if you are genuinely respectful and interested in their trade. They like to talk to a backpacker in the morning if he or she is cool and humble.
Ideally you want owner permission and to work in harmony with them. If you happen to meet the owner and the timing is right ask if you can camp over there in the corner. Many will be cool about it and you'll be relaxed in camp to.
Camp Up High
If you don't have permission camp up on the higher parts of a trail. The plateaus and peaks are infrequently visited by landowners and it tends to be accepted. This is true in the Lake District although it's still not legal.
There are also many bushes, copses, woods, plantation and remoter spots to pitch up in. Just keep your eyes open. Again, all with respect and with the intention of treading lightly.
It's easier to wild camp and be stealthy if you're as light as possible. Of course there are health benefits also if hiking for multiple days. Some reasons for going light are:
Saving energy evidently allows you to go further. Heavier weights means more energy being burned up so therefore fewer enjoyable miles. How it makes you feel is a big one.
The cost of your adventure is likely to be less in terms of calories consumed as well as to your health.
So, avoid: low mood, Injury, chafing, blisters, twisted parts, sore tendons, irritation, exhaustion and dehydration.
By Thinking About
Lighter tents/shelters, sleeping bags/down quilts, boots/shoes, cooking gear, clothing and even water filtration that'll keep your larger water bladder empty
Going light weight for us, and we're no gram pinchers by any stretch of the imagination, has meant a whole different experience. Many years ago, our packs weighed a ton and although we could hack it we knew there was a smarter way. Therefore, be smarter on the trail and move more freely and enjoyably by reducing the weight you carry.
For more on the gear needed to hike and trek light click here.