Saturday, 1 May 2021

Wild camping in High Peak

I don't bother much with blogging these days but, with recent developments, I felt compelled to take to the keyboard. We're just back from a motorhome trip up north and, whilst we were away, some new legislation came to light, via Twitter.
Before I go further, if you're in any way interested in wild camping, it's perhaps best that you read this. Having read the page, which is short, click on the link to "Wildfires PSPO" and read that carefully. Again, it's only short.

You'll se that this order is primarily written in response to recent wildfires on the moors up here in the north of England. There was one on Kinder just last week. In an effort to avoid this happening again High peak Borough Council have put this order in place, referring in particular to the misuse of barbecues, fireworks and Chinese lanterns. Most of us would agree that this is laudable. There's no need to use such things out in the countryside, and, during the pandemic, there have been lots of instances of their inappropriate use, leading to some appalling fires. However, whoever drafted this law has taken it further and included in the prohibition, "Using any article or object which causes a naked flame and thereby poses a risk of fire without the prior written consent of the Borough Council." This description clearly covers the use of ANY kind of camping stove and even a match or lighter. This, in turn, effectively makes it illegal to cook using a stove whilst wild camping.

Remember, wild camping in the Peak District is not actually illegal. Rather it is a matter of civil trespass between the individual camper and the landowner. It is not an offence in itself. I shouldn't need to remind regular wild campers that, if one is asked to move on by an agent of the landowner, one should do so.

So, in short, for the three years commencing the 16th April 2021, it would certainly appear that using a stove in the hills of the High Peak area, has become illegal.

In light of the above I'd like to make a number of comments.

1. The area defined is, basically, open areas within the boundary of High Peak Borough Council (HPBC), NOT the whole of the Peak District National Park. For your information, here is a map showing the boundary of HPBC. I apologise for the quality of this image, it was the best I could find. But you may notice that the northern and north eastern edges mirror the boundary of Derbyshire. where it adjoins West and South Yorkshire respectively. So, at the moment, there are areas of the Peak District Park which aren't affected. Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on your standpoint) Chrissie and I live in HPBC!

2. It is an offence, in the area covered, to be in possession of a barbecue, fireworks or a lantern using a naked flame, but, importantly NOT a stove. So, there'd be no problem passing through this area with your normal backpacking kit. It is an offence to use the stove though.

3. In my opinion, wild campers are not the intended target of this legislation, but we are hit by, if you will, the collateral damage. There have been instances reported recently of landowners' agents, seeking out wild campers and asking them to move. To my knowledge this has happened on Bamford Edge and, I believe, Stanage Edge. I believe Bamford Edge to be privately owned (I may be wrong) rather than National Trust. These areas are very close to roads, which makes them very easy targets for both campers and landowners' agents. In contrast, folk who are well out of the way, are unlikely to be bothered by anyone. It may well be that, once the foolish people using barbecues, fireworks etc have got the message, then life will calm down again. I'm not actually aware of any instance of a true wild camper starting a fire and I don't believe any agency has the resources to completely police and eradicate wild camping. However, there have been reports of people accessing moors via popular roadheads (eg by the reservoir gates from Hayfield) carrying backpacking kit being challenged by rangers, reminding them that wild camping is "not allowed". 

Finally, some general thoughts.

Given the spirit of this legislation, it's entirely possible it may also be applied by other council areas. Indeed, it wouldn't surprise me.

As regular wild campers, we have all played a part, perhaps, in influencing others to try the activity. There are huge numbers nowadays, whose main focus is to go out, purely for the sake of camping for the night, rather than as part of a linear or circular, multi-day journey, which was, arguably, the original purpose of wild camping. Many seek to find places as close as possible to a roadhead, bringing its own problems, as referred to in point 3 above and, often, leading to the overuse of some locations.

Chrissie and I have a real passion for longer backpacking adventures, but we do keep our camping skills honed by short, one or two night trips on our local patch.
Over the years we have found ourselves sharing camp spots, previously known only to us and it's startling how quickly this information spreads. I can think of one place, which I found in my local wandering a few years ago, where a recent visit revealed the remains of fire ring. When I first went there, I saw no evidence at all of it ever being used before. As a result of all the above, we've now decided to stop sharing information about camp spots, preferring instead to encourage others to find their own. Find places less frequented and you'll probably be unaffected by any of the above.

So far, I've avoided commenting on the legislation on social media. We already tread a precarious path as wild campers in the Peak District, so have no real weight to argue against this order. I did consider carefully before writing this, but I don't really think it will make our status as wild campers any worse. I still believe there aren't the resources to stop it completely. Folk reading this in Scotland, the Lake District and Dartmoor should remind them selves how lucky they are. Note that this order stays in place for three years but the legislation allows for it to be extended indefinitely. I'd long hoped I might live to see Scottish-type access here in England but, right now, I feel doubtful.

In conclusion, I'm publishing this because I don't think enough people are currently aware of the situation, so please feel free to share it. It's quite important to know where you stand with the law, if challenged. I was surprised when I first read it only a couple of days ago, especially when I noticed it came into effect around two weeks previously, with no local publicity that I'm aware of. My own take is, I won't be out camping in the affected area for a while, maybe until the end of the summer. I prefer to see how it goes for now.

I'd be interested to hear any constructive comments.

Take care all, and keep safe.


  1. I had to think long and hard about replying to this as I live in the affected are, and, as a wild camping enthusiast, maybe part of the cause. Anyway here we go:

    The thing that most bugs me is the poor wording of the order. I live in both the national park and HPBC area. To read the legislation correctly, I have committed an offence if I step onto the pavement outside my own front door and light a cigarette (if I smoked). Also, valid for 3 years! We all know that over the winter the moors are soaking wet and not a fire risk. Come Nov. 5th, I can still light a rocket firework from my back garden, which will no doubt land on the public area, but the village cannot have its little display on the kiddies playing field.

    HPBC seem to have made no attempt to publicise this apart from the obligatory press release. I walked from Hayfield to the bottom of William Clough today. There are no signs or notices from HPBC at all. There are generic warning signs from Derbyshire Fire & Rescue, but these are guidance and have no legal standing.

    Who is going to police this? You can be taken to task by a police officer, a PCSO or a council officer. I can tell you now, HPBC simply does not have the staff resources to send people out of hours over the hills looking for wild campers. They struggle enough to carry out their statutory duties, let alone find extra resources for new laws of their own making.

    Paul Messner has produced a well presented video concerning wild camping and asks are it’s days numbered?
    I can only re-iterate his comment that hopefully all of this nonsense will end when Benidorm opens again.

    I have always advocated wild camping to others and maybe not considered the consequences. We have all done similar on social media, or in my case, Youtube. My first cycle trip/wild camp was a solo overnighter when I was 13! I have regularly done it since. I been hassled or moved on a few times, and that was in my youth when I no doubt deserved it. I am very rarely ever seen. But from now on, I will not necessarily hide the fact on video postings – that would be near impossible, but I will simply not mention or talk about it. I have always refused to engage with people who want to know where the good spots are. IMO, if you can’t find somewhere yourself, you shouldn’t do it.
    I find it worrying that 20 years ago we were embracing the right to roam. Now we have orders like this and future legislation that potentially criminalises some trespass chipping away at us and turning the clock back to the 30’s.

    Each will come to their own opinion about how to deal with this. Personally, I will not let it affect me. No, I do not think I am above the law and yes, I do think the new rules apply to me. However, I am willing to pay the fine in the unlikely event of being discovered/prosecuted etc. I am at a time in life when it really doesn’t matter. I have a long bike packing trip coming up which passes through the entire High Peak and Kirklees (has similar order) council areas. Will I be cold soaking my noodles when wild camping? – I will let you guess the answer to that.

    Keep safe (and discreet) everyone.

  2. Well said Geoff, I have visions of drones acting as a spy in the sky operated by some individual snug and secure in his little van and woe betide anyone spotted wild camping! Ok, a bit far fetched, however the police are already making use of drones for surveillance. It is crazy though. Do we swap our dark green tents to cammo?

    1. Hi Dawn, hope you're well. It's heresay, but there have been reports of drones used on Burbage Edge.
      They have to have an idea where you are in the first place though.
      I remain optimistic.


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