A country better disposed to considerate wild camping and swimming would be a happier and healthier one

Supporters call it “wild camping”; opponents call it “fly-camping”. What both sides accept is that there has been an upsurge in the past few months, with increasing numbers of visitors pitching their tents on any bit of land they fancy. In part, this reflects the fact that official campsites have been wholly or partially closed, or are hugely oversubscribed in a summer when fewer people are going abroad. It is also cheap, at a time when many are worried about what the economic future holds. But it may also be an expression of a desire for freedom – a response to the months of lockdown that is also mirrored in the increased interest in wild swimming in lakes and rivers.

Most of the coverage of the boom in wild camping has been negative. What might be deemed amusing at the Glastonbury festival has not gone down well on Dartmoor, one of the few places in England where wild camping had previously been explicitly permitted. It has now been banned there for August and the early part of September because of a rise in antisocial behaviour, with campers dumping litter, human waste and even their tents on the moorland. Similar action has been taken in Northumberland, the Lake District and the New Forest. Even in Scotland, where camping is permitted on most unenclosed land, tensions are rising.

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