Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Eight Years Later

John Manning posted this article, We’ve been shunned before! , which I have transcribed below.

Are backpackers losing out?

While the Government's Countryside and Rights of Way Bill has generally been welcomed, suggestions that wild camping on the new areas of access land is to be outlawed has caused considerable concern among Britain's backpackers.

As president of the Backpackers Club, I'm particularly saddened that the Government hasn't grasped the opportunity to make an exception for backpackers who are travelling through an area, distinguishing them from New Age campers and those who would set their tents up in one place for a week at a time.

The outlawing of camping is included in a list of restrictions to be observed by people having access to access land in Schedule 2 of the bill. The list also includes skinny dipping in any non-tidal water, mountain biking, use of four wheel drive vehicles, lighting fires and neglecting to close gates. Indeed the Country Landowners' Association has suggested that anyone found breaking these restrictions should be convicted of a criminal offence. One wonders what sort of mind equates a harmless and quiet overnight bivouac, or failing to close a gate, with crimes like burglary, assault and theft. The CLA also wants to restrict access to daylight hours, and some Tory MP's have suggested that 24 hour access tantamounts to a "burglar's charter".

Backpacking is enjoyed by thousands of people in the UK and the Backpackers' Club, founded in 1972, has over 1,300 members. The doctrine of the activity emphasises good environmental awareness and can be described as 'no-trace' camping - the backpacker determines to leave no trace of his passing and cause no disturbance to either the land or livestock. The international motto of backpacking is 'leave only footprints, take only photographs' and most backpackers today try not to even leave footprints!

The proposed restriction raises implications not only for the future of the Backpackers' Club and similar hill-walking clubs but organisations such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, the Scout movement and Outward Bound, organisations which are recognised as being highly beneficial in the positive development of young people.

Most people understand the Government's concern over the possibility of New Age camps being set up in the access areas or the possibility of people erecting 'tent villages' for weeks at a time during holidays but by outlawing all forms of camping the Government is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Backpacking is an enjoyable, law abiding and environmentally-friendly activity and overnight wild camping in remote locations is a fundamental part of the activity. If such lightweight, wild camping was to be outlawed on the hills and high moorland areas of England and Wales then many individuals would be deprived of the opportunity of communing with the natural world in a way which they can enjoy at the present. It would be a retrograde step and contrary to the very principle of freedom-to-roam.

Andrew Bennet MP, who is president of the RA, has asked the Minister to consider the issues of high-level camping and bivouacking. "The provisions for them need to be clear in the Bill," he said, but comments from the DETR suggest that in many areas camping is subject to local bye-laws and indeed that will still be the case, and while many councils turn a blind eye to the casual backpacker who quietly and unobtrusively pitches his tent for a few hours on some remote location it's a pity the Government couldn't follow the example of many European countries which allow backpackers to camp if travelling through a region, ie they are not setting up a semi-permanent camp of several days or weeks duration.

In effect, nothing has changed since the 1949 Bill. That legislation restricted camping too, and my advice to backpackers is carry on as before.

Cameron McNeish - Editor, TGO Magazine, May 2000




George Griffin said...

This is the first time I`ve seen this article. I don't think I was buying TGO back then.

I wonder why if this was such a big deal back then that the backpackers club didn't get involved in some sort of campaign.

Even now the backpackers club doesn't seem to have any response to the current petition.

There are comments around the 'net proposing that we join the RA to lobby them for wild camping.

Why would the Ramblers Association be interested in wild camping?

Surely a group/club that participates in this particular activity would be a better choice.

Although as I understand things the backpackers club have never been or are interested in having a political voice.

Seems as though they are happy to allow other groups or individuals to do the campaigning and if successful reap the benefits.

AktoMan said...

Some sort of association to push for wild camping, perhaps this?

I'm unhappy with the ending sentiment there, George. I know nothing about the campaigning that the BPC does. I know I have a skewed view of the Ramblers as a townies out for a day.

I think the marginalisation of the outdoors is to blame. Hell's teeth, there's magazines for people who watch birds, watch Countryfile, websites for magazines, websites that organise meetings, clubs that have websites and magazines that organise meetings ... all attracting different people, different "target audiences", and hardly anywhere is there anyone who talks directly to the landowners.

George Griffin said...

"I'm unhappy with the ending sentiment there, George. I know nothing about the campaigning that the BPC does. I know I have a skewed view of the Ramblers as a townies out for a day"

In my time with the backpackers club I`ve never known them to campaign on anything.

Seem to remember comments like we're not a political group, best left to others.

Although I`m a townie I find the ramblers a bit strange, mass hoards tramping through the countryside although this is down in Surrey and Kent.

John Hee said...

The RA has the biggest of the experienced outdoor lobby groups with established connections into governmental groups. Whilst the organisation itself may not necessarily appeal, its the mechanisms they've set up that are the main appaeal from the wildcamp E-P angle. Time to lay aside the niche thinking to put our weight behind a couple of big and experienced heavyweights?
Always assuming they're supportative of course

AktoMan said...

As I've previously said: why should people who couldn't (or didn't) consider wild camping before, now consider supporting it?

If keep forgetting that British politics seems to be based on confrontations, arguments, manipulation and the like rather than logic and a positive attitude. If you go looking for a fight, you'll find one - as people find on a Friday night in town centres.

Walk softly and carry a titanium stick.

George Griffin said...

While I agree with John about having some heavyweights supporting the petition, I don't think the RA would get behind it.

Especially after hearing the podcast with Lord Smith,; the RA seem to have other agendas to follow.

AktoMan said...

without coastal access, how would people get to the coast to enjoy the BBC's series of programmes called...oh, I forget.