Camping Controversy In Wales

The Farming Union in Wales has criticised plans put forward for consultation by the Welsh Goverment. The plans would allow paragliding, hang gliding, games and camping on open access land, in what would be an expansion of existing countryside access rules in the country. Many would welcome greater freedom for walkers and wild camping enthusiasts but many farmers have concerns.

The arguments are obvious. On the one hand are those that argue that everyone should have the right to access and spend a night in open areas as long as they do not cause a disturbance to locals, wildlife or the local ecosystem. Those in favour of the plans also say that allowing greater countryside access can be a boost to local rural businesses and can help encourage a sense of belonging and a certain 'ownership' of a whole community for the land around it.

On the other are concerns that campers and others enjoying the outdoors on open access farmland would cause all sorts of damage to the land and potentially to the income of farmers, not only through damage to livestock or crops, but also through the loss of income from offering paid campsites – which many farmers have diversified into to help meet costs in these times that are so difficult for many farms.

Would the possibility of free camping on open access land really lead to a loss of income for farmers who have diversified into offering camping or glamping on their land? The answer is not as straightforward as it may at first seem. While you may think that camping for free is a 'no-brainer' and that no one would choose to pay – you may be wrong. Examples from Scotland and other countries with more lenient outdoor access and wild camping rules seem to show that both wildcamping and paid camping can co-exist quite happily. They are not equivalent and so there is an argument to say that there is a 'market' for both.

The consultation is called 'Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources' and includes the proposals discussed above as well as a range of other points for consideration. Land use is always a contentious issue but one that all keen campers should engage with. Land is precious and should be respected but unfortunately, access is given a bad name by those few who abuse the right and cause mayhem, damage things and leave a mess behind them. Most campers are considerate and enjoy sustainable, low impact wild camping adventures – but you rarely hear about all the quiet success stories, only about times when people have done the wrong things. That is why campers should speak up about issues like this and make sure that the ignorant and selfish minority of litterbug campers are not allowed to cause us all to loose our rights to enjoy the land.