Archive for February 2008

Our(?) green and pleasant land

Posted by on February 28th 2008 in Wildcamping e-petition

According to the informal rules (not laws, there are none) of the game, wildcampers are supposed to pitch only on land where they've been given permission.

Sounds easy. But is it? Half of the land in my(?) fair country isn't even registered. Finding out who owns the other half is a nightmare.

Here's a snippet:

"There are in the UK over 40,000 people who own land worth at least £1 million. Who many of these people are and how they acquired their land is a mystery. Most figures concerning private land ownership are only estimates because 50% of the land in the UK is not registered. The Land Registry only registers land when it is sold. Those who have held estates for generations are under no obligation to tell anyone about their holdings. How did this state of affairs come about?"

If you're the slightest bit interested, follow these links:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/article786116.ece

and

http://libcom.org/news/article.php/land-ownership-right-roam-uk-10032006

I watched Peter Snow's 2006 documentary on the Beeb and it was quite an eye-opener.

If only I had a copy...

NEWSFLASH

Posted by on February 27th 2008 in Rambling on...

00:55 am...

We just had an earthquake! The whole house was shaking... the laptop motion-sensor stopped the HDD... plates on the floor... alarms going off everywhere...

I'd just finished an hour of setting up the scope - what a waste of time, expensive accessories all over the floor. 😥

Fantastic.

Edit: news is that the epicentre was 15 miles from Lincoln and about 4.7 on the Richter scale.

More details here. 

So, this wildcamping, what’s it all about?

Posted by on February 24th 2008 in Wildcamping, Wildcamping e-petition

I'm aware that there are quite a few folk out there reading this blog who've heard a bit about wildcamping but have never tried it and so don't really get the gist of what we're campaigning for. Hopefully you'll take the time to have a look through these blogged reports about a few of my most recent wildcamps, they should give some idea about what we're going on about. Just click the links below the pics to see the relevant report pages.

Ennerdale wildcamp

Ennerdale October 2007

Easedale wildcamp

Easedale June 2007 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Far Eastern Fells wildcamp

Far Eastern Fells May 2007

Looks like fun, eh? Something worth fighting for, perhaps?

The e-petition – why bother?

Posted by on February 24th 2008 in Wildcamping e-petition

I'll start off by saying that I'm not trying to shoot down arguments against the petition, I'm just airing my views on the matter.

We all know that wildcamping has been going on in England and Wales for many, many years and that, on the whole, there haven't been too many problems. By and large, landowners have been commendably tolerant (or blissfully unaware) of dedicated walkers overnighting on their wild property, and there haven't been many complaints reported. This suggests that there is a "status quo" which is not to be upset, and often leads to anti-petition voices proclaiming "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Well, I've got a car. It's not broke, so I'm not going to fix it. But it'll still get a regular service, I owe it that much. It's served me well for many years but it needs some TLC, the bits that wear out, like the tyres and brake-pads, still need periodic replacement before they fail in a catastrophic manner. Or maybe I should just ignore the maintenance schedule and let the machine kill me and my family when a tyre blows and the brakes fail while driving back on the motorway after a trip to the Lake District?

Looking again at the wildcamping situation as part of the bigger picture of recreational land usage, I see that it's not a "status quo". The amount of land in England and Wales is more or less finite, allowing for the effects of erosion versus deposition. There's a variation in the number of landowners as property is bought and sold, split or amalgamated. But overshadowing these minor variables is the increasing number of people taking to the outdoors, and particularly to the hills.

This in itself has both positive and negative effects: on the plus side, getting out there and doing stuff is good for body and soul, fresh air and regular exercise in a thrilling environment are to be encouraged. One of the knock-on effects is often an increased cash-flow into a local, often rural, economy, which is an obvious plus if you're a local resident and your living is based on a tourist-dependent economy. More visitors = more cash. Simple. On the minus side, the increased pressure on the land can put some areas at risk due to the damage caused by the number of boots/vehicles/whatever. More visitors = more pressure. Simple. I see another downside - more people taking to the wilds and taking up semi-permanent residence there, but unaware of the code of practice that is required to preserve the land for others. I've seen large encampments in wild spaces: groups of tents and teepees set up around a scorched open hearth, open latrine trenches dug behind bushes (often the few bushes that remain after the search for easily-available firewood has proved fruitless) and lip-service being paid to any care for the environment. If this is getting back to nature, it's not for me. I'm not "anti", I'm just of a different opinion. The thing is, these groups are becoming more common, and so there is potential for a corresponding rise in the number of conflicts that can result.

Now, the way I see it is this. If we don't identify ourselves as being different to other groups such as new-age travellers, weekend revellers, ravers and the like, we'll always be pigeonholed with them (I've nothing against these other groups, btw, it's just that I see distinctions based on objectives). This is all the more likely while our activity has no basis in law and while there is no regulatory body which could offer support. If offsite-camping is banned (and I mean banned in law or bye-law) because of the inappropriate actions of one of these other proliferating groups, we'll all be tarred with the same brush so we'll all sink together, which would be unfair, and I can imagine that the outcry from bona fide wildcampers would be much louder than the current outcry against the petition.

I like the idea of being part of defined groups, rather than being pigeonholed inappropriately. I don't like over-regulation and card-carrying any more than anybody else does, but if it's looked on as a privilege rather than an Orwellian jackboot, it's more appealing. Yes, I would carry a card if it meant that I could carry on enjoying my wildcamping while other groups are prevented from doing so because they have overstepped the mark. There have been questions about how a card scheme would be administered, and to be honest I don't really know, but I do know that it's not rocket-science. Cards are everywhere... gym cards, credit cards, debit cards, Camping and Caravanning Club cards, supermarket points cards, driving licences etc. etc.. OK, so it might not be a free system, some payment may well be involved, but a proportion of any registration fee could be donated to a suitable organisation, such as Mountain Rescue, Air Ambulance, CPRE, there are many options here.

What's the problem? Me. I'm the problem. Because I have an opinion which differs.

Nailing my colours to the mast

Posted by on February 21st 2008 in Wildcamping e-petition

OK, the debates about the legalisation of wildcamping in England and Wales are hotting up. A lot of the conversations seem to be centred on either the preliminary wording on the e-petition page, or on what the definition of "rights enshrined in law"-wildcamping might be. I just want to take this opportunity to say a few things about these subjects.

1. The Preliminary Wording.

Well, that's just what it is. Preliminary. It's not the best piece of prose ever penned by a bard of this fair land, it's what Darren was thinking at the time, he's not a politician or a poet but he speaks as he thinks. At least he had the balls to stick his head above the parapet and see who was waiting to prop him up or shoot him down - credit where it's due, I say.

As with every first step, this one might have been a bit wobbly but it was a necessary thing to do before the art of running is learned. I've no doubt that the e-petition wording could be refined to take into account some of the sensible ideas (for and against) being bounced around in cyberspace, but let's not forget that it's an introductory text, not a final draft of a bill to be placed before the lawmakers of the land. It's like a seed, if nurtured it'll grow and eventually come to fruition, at which point it'll be totally different to how it started.

2. Wildcamping - A Definition.

Ah, now we're into personal points of view. I've read a lot of opinions as to what "wildcamping" should/could be, and I reckon everybody has a slightly different take on it. For what it's worth, here's mine:

Who: Individuals or small groups, no more than 4 units per group. Sensible people who respect the environment and act responsibly, leaving no trace and causing no trouble, inconvenience or distraction. People who would appreciate the privilege of being allowed to conduct this activity without concerns about civil or legal action.

What: Small tents, tarps, bivi-bags and the like. If you can't carry it, it's too big so it's not allowed.

When: One hour before sunset to one hour after sunrise, unless conditions or incapacity force an early or extended stay. In mountainous or remote regions, I reckon that stays during daytime might be acceptable where there is a specific objective.

Where: It's probably best to consider where wildcamping should not be done... private gardens, farmed/cultivated (including fallow) land, common land (laws are already in place covering the use of common land), public parks, ecologically-sensitive areas, SSSIs, nature reserves, restricted-access military ground, places where camping would infringe upon the activities of other land-users (for example, not by a riverside where it would prevent angling). You get the gist. I don't reckon that there should be a minimum altitude for wildcamping - not all folk who might choose to wildcamp would class themselves as fell-walkers or mountaineers, some are long-distance lowland or coastal walkers who still need shelter for the night. I reckon that a minimum distance of a mile from all roads and from all permanent habitation would suffice.

Why: As a means to a specific and reasonable end, such as a sleepover as part of a multi-day walk, or as a base-camp for another activity. Definitely not as a place to get rowdy, cause grief and noise, party to excess etc..

How: With what you can carry in, and then carry out again. No open fires without specific permission. No powered vehicles without specific permission.

Other thoughts:

Rights: For me, this isn't about taking away the rights of the landowner, who, I believe, must still retain the right to have wrong-doers removed from his/her property. The difference would be that being asked to move on "because this is my land and you've no right to be here" would be a thing of the past. A realistic and justifiable reason for removal, backed up by evidence, would have to be given by the landowner or his/her agent. Such a reason would have to be reconciled against the wildcamper's own reason for being there.

Responsibilities: The "respect the privilege" and "leave no trace" policies are two of the things that would set proper wildcampers apart from other off-site campers. As such, I believe that bona fide wildcampers would have a responsibility for helping others to adhere to whatever rules are set in place to regulate the activity. Furthermore, wildcampers should be willing and prepared to aid the emergency and rescue services if necessary, even if it's only to use your camp as a place to look after a casualty until help arrives, or to shelter a lost soul until redemption happens by.

Approval: In many places in Europe, campers have to produce a "camping card" in order to get a site pitch. I reckon a similar system could work for wildcampers here... a card, to be issued by a suitable regulatory authority such as the BMC, the RA, the Environment Agency and/or a similar body, confirming the ID of the bearer and displaying the rules of the game, could be carried at all times, to be shown on demand. It sounds a bit draconian, but it's only like anglers having to carry an EA rod licence.

Insurance: To me, it seems sensible to have cover for liability and accidental damage while on property owned by somebody else. I'm not sure that making it mandatory would be a good thing, though.

There you go. I expect I'll be editing this after further thought, and I'm open to persuasion (unlike some die-hards out there), so be prepared for change in the name of progress.

If you want to view my e-petition archive, click here.

No sign of the eclipse

Posted by on February 21st 2008 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports

Yup, the clouds didn't break at all last night or this morning, I didn't see the Moon at all. 🙁

Never mind, there'll be another Total Lunar Eclipse along soon... in December 2010. 😯

Clouds across the Moon :- (

Posted by on February 20th 2008 in Astrostuff

It's not looking good for the planned eclipse-observing session, we've 8/8 cloud cover here at the moment (as predicted).

No matter, I'll err on the side of optimism and get set up and ready anyway, just in case there are any viewing opportunities.

On the campaign trail

Posted by on February 19th 2008 in In the News, Wildcamping e-petition

I've just returned from a morning pounding the streets of Hinckley while spreading the word about the wildcamping e-petition. Several establishments are now proudly displaying the poster that AktoMan created, and the reactions appear to be favourable

I set off with 50 copies and a camera, expecting to find folk either disinterested, too busy or just out-to-lunch, but I have to say that it's a subject that seems to pique the interest of many ordinary people.

First stop was the local outdoors and workwear shop, it's a place that's popular with folk who would probably be found at Millets if the town had a branch, folk who are after kit for their kids to go on D. of E. and Scouts outings etc. The two nice ladies in there had no qualms about displaying the poster, and even found time for a chat about the subject.

Next up was the library and Tourist Information Centre, where I left a copy for approval by the chief librarian, who will contact me by email to advise whether or not they will be allowed to display it.

On leaving the building, I was stopped by a couple who explained that they were in the Ramblers Association and that they had overheard the pitch that I was giving to the assistant librarian. They asked for some copies to take to their next monthly meeting, so I gave them a dozen, along with a few relevant leads on the web, and in return I got an invitation to go to their next get-together in the pub.

Next it was time to pull in a favour, so I hauled up at the business address of an old friend. He wasn't in, but his business partner was quite vocal about the unfairness of having different sets of laws in what is supposed to be a United Kingdom (his emphasis, not mine), and then he went on to the subject of land ownership, methods of land acquisition (invasion, inheritance, clearance, purchase etc.) and whether landowners should be custodians of the countryside for the benefit of others, rather than real-estate holders who (often literally) ring-fence their investments. Room was made for the poster right in the middle of their notice-board, and he took copies to hand out to his customers. I'm to go back next week to see my mate when he's back at work, that should be productive as he's into a few outdoors pursuits himself and he'll have further contacts.

While walking back to the car I passed a computer-supplies shop and noticed that they had a window devoted to various ads, so I went in and pitched at the bloke behind the counter. It turned out that he's an occasional walker and camper, but he didn't realise that wildcamping was frowned-upon by the authorities. He was very supportive and promised to sign up, so that was another poster on another window, in a prominent place in town.

 

 

Finally, down to my last five prints, I called in at the fishing-tackle shop, which is always a good place to get folk to vent their spleens. Many anglers like to go multi-day and/or night-fishing, which generally entails pitching some sort of shelter somewhere, and there was discussion with one of the customers as to whether any rules put in place to cover legalised wildcamping would also be enforceable upon those who camp at the waterside, to clamp down on the irresponsible minority who spoil the bankside, leave litter and generally get the good guys a bad press. Posters were duly offered and accepted, and I left while the debate was still on the boil.

The main feedback from this preliminary foray is that the general public are, understandably, unaware of the general illegality of wildcamping in England and Wales, but there is agreement that the disparity in the current laws is a cause for concern and/or action. None of the folk that I spoke to said that they would be against a change in the law, all bar one said that they would support the cause. Time will tell if they actually sign up... fingers are crossed here.

I'll be on the road again later in the week, taking in the delights of other gear-shops in the area.

If you're of a mind to distribute some of these posters and you're willing to print them yourself, the picture can be downloaded from AktoMan's Flickr site, just click on the picture below to jaunt there.

 

E-petition poster

Big country = big stamps

Posted by on February 18th 2008 in Just for fun, LMAO!

I just took delivery of a stamp from China.

On further inspection, I noticed that there was a parcel attached to it!

 

Norway enlightened

Posted by on February 17th 2008 in Great Escapes, Wildcamping e-petition

While researching our summer holiday, I found this chunk of information on the Norway Direct website:

Camping & Caravans
It is no suprise that with their love of the outdoor life, you are never far from somewhere to camp in Norway. If you plan to sleep in a tent, you may do so anywhere in forests or mountains except in cultivated fields for up to 48 hours, as long as your tent is no closer than 150 meters to the nearest house.

Nice people, the Norwegians. With an invitation like that, how could we decline the opportunity to pay them a visit?

We'll be hopping over to Denmark too, calling in at Billund for a day at the original Legoland, so I suppose I'll have to take some pics (or even grab some samples)  for our homegrown Lego fanatic.

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