How do you tackle the tricky subject of telling your children that wild camping is (Largely) illegal even though you are doing it and encouraging them to do it?
“Can you keep it down a bit please? We can’t make as much noise as we want.”
“No, we have to wait a bit before pitching the tent.”
“Sorry, we can’t invite all your friends.”
“No, we can’t light a campfire this time.”
These are all things I have said to my seven year old and all have solicited the all too familiar reply of “Why?"
So, how do you tackle the subject of telling your children that wild camping is illegal even though you want to do it and you want them to do it?
Of course if your kids are ready to hike 15 kilometres into the mountains then it is is a bit different but if they are too young or you are just introducing them to the wonders of the outdoors it can be tricky to get off the beaten track in much of the UK. If you live in Scotland this is less of a problem, also if you live near Dartmoor but for the rest it could be, as the law requires you to ask permission from the landowner.
Many people cite the legality of wild camping as a barrier to doing so, however dealing with being thrown of someone’s land (no matter how unlikely that may actually be) is something that would be easier to do without having to explain it to a child.
So, if you want a microadventure with children you may have to be subtle about it. In many regions of our land this means a bivvy bag in the corner of a field and preparing answers for dog walkers who happen upon your patch on a late summer evening.
It means awkward moments of distraction when someone tramps across the field in your direction or strange looks as you sit on a hill top, in fading light, wondering if those two figures are coming to check what you are doing… "oh no, it’s ok they’ve turned around”.
It means explaining to your children why "we cannot light a fire on this beach" even though we have done it on another beach and it means refusing to go with a group of friends to ensure that “we really leave no trace”.
Now, of course no one wants a legal system where anyone can come into your garden and sleep but I would be interested to know what percentage of UK readers of this blog have requested permission from a landowner before camping?
And, assuming you don’t always get that permission, how do you explain to your children that what they are doing is illegal? Or perhaps you don’t?
I have told Emma that it is largely against the law but tolerated in certain areas provided you don’t leave a trace. I have explained we are on someone else’s property but because we are nowhere near any buildings we can spend a night here, providing we do not disturb anything or anyone.
I know, its all a bit vague, but she seems to get it. Of course, whether it will have an effect on how she respects other laws only time will tell.
I would be really interested to know how other parents have dealt with this so please comment below.