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Camping laws, including those for fishing licences, permits for paddleboards and littering, holidaymakers should know or risk fines of up to £2,500



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With restrictions still surrounding many foreign holidays and lots of UK holiday accommodation fully booked, camping, glamping - or even campervan hire - may provide many families with a different getaway option this summer.

But for those preparing to pitch up in the coming weeks, there are a number of UK laws campers should be aware of before heading for the great beyond:

If you're planning to take the family into the wild this summer, be sure to know the rules that you must follow
If you're planning to take the family into the wild this summer, be sure to know the rules that you must follow

1. You need permission to start a campfire

Snuggling down around a campfire, marshmallows in hand, can all be part of the camping experience .but once you're away from your own property, starting a fire or barbecue is subject to very different laws and regulations.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you can only start a fire if you have the land owner’s permission - this could include councils, organisations like The National Trust or private landowners..

While many campsites permit visitors to light fires, providing you follow any rules in place, other areas like national parks, forests and other parkland in England and Wales will be privately owned meaning that permission is needed.

Those planning to cook outside at the beach must also check with whoever owns the coastal spot and any guidance set down in local by-laws. Often signs in place at beach areas will explain what is and isn't permitted.

You cannot start a campire or barbecue anywhere you like
You cannot start a campire or barbecue anywhere you like

2. You can't just camp anywhere

In England and Wales, wild camping is mostly illegal, warns private camper rental service PaulCamper. With the exception of some parts of Dartmoor, the romantic notion that you can pack up and pitch up in the middle of nowhere isn't always entirely accurate.

You only have the right to camp on land belonging to someone else if you have their permission to stay and the same applies to travelling campervans/motorhomes too.

If caught wild camping without permission, you could be found guilty of trespassing. While this is a civil and not criminal offence, and so you won't be arrested, you will be asked to move on. But if you don't leave when asked to do so - or you're found returning - you could be charged with the criminal offence of aggravated trespassing. This is a public order-related crime that risks up to three months imprisonment or a fine of £2,500, or both.

The Woodland Trust advises that those looking for remote areas with a wild camping feel, turn to online sites like Pitchup.com, for spacious yet legal places to stop.

Thinking of foraging for dinner? You cannot uproot simply anything you spot.
Thinking of foraging for dinner? You cannot uproot simply anything you spot.

3. Foraging

Wild plants are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and it is illegal to dig up or remove a plant completely from any land by its root without permission from the landowner.

You can pick leaves, flowers, fruit, and fungi from plentiful populations for personal use but you must forage carefully, leaving enough for others and that includes the local wildlife such as birds.

Anyone with intentions to forage should also be aware there are some species of vegetation protected against picking, uprooting or damage of any kind. A list of these can be found on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

From a safety point of view, aspiring foragers should be mindful of what they are picking and never take or eat anything they're unsure of.

Owners who don't clear up after their animals risk a fine
Owners who don't clear up after their animals risk a fine

4. Making a mess could cost thousands

The same as on the streets - littering when camping is illegal and campers caught leaving litter risk a fine or prosecution in court.

Authorised officers can give out a fixed penalty charge of up to £80 for a litter offence, as an alternative to prosecution, but if the offender is prosecuted and convicted in court, the fee could rise to £2,500.

If your dog has also been brought along for the trip, you should pick up their mess in just the same way as you would if out on a walk. Failing to clear up after your animal anywhere could lead to a £100 fine rising to £1,000 for owners who find themselves in front of magistrates or a judge.

And if you are camping somewhere remote (with the landowner's permission) that doesn't have toilet facilities you are also responsible for disposing of your own waste responsibly too. This may mean digging a hole and burying it, which must be done at least 30 metres away from water.

Bringing your pets along means they need to abide by certain regulations too
Bringing your pets along means they need to abide by certain regulations too

5. Don't let your dog leave you out of pocket

Choosing to holiday in the UK often means pet owners can bring dogs with them. But there are rules and regulations for four-legged friends you must still consider..

You can walk across some land in England without using paths and this is known as open access or access land. It can include mountains, moors or downs that are privately owned, alongside common land registered with councils or land around the England Coastal Path.

Your legal right to come onto this land is called the ‘right to roam’, or ‘freedom to roam’. You can use it for walking, climbing, running or watching wildlife. Learn more about it and the rules here.

There are times and places were your dog needs to remain on a lead and owners are advised to understand them
There are times and places were your dog needs to remain on a lead and owners are advised to understand them

But if you're camping near to access land there are some rules, relating to your dog, you must also be aware of.

You must keep your dog on a lead no more than two metres long on open access land at all times around livestock and between March 1 and July 31 to protect nesting birds.

Not clearing up after your dog is also not permitted. The penalty for committing an offence, which is contained in a Dog Control Order, is a maximum fine of £1,000 or a fixed penalty notice.

fishing reel lake river fisherman holiday fish catching gear tench rod fisher hobbies spinning spin - stock image. (48694096)
fishing reel lake river fisherman holiday fish catching gear tench rod fisher hobbies spinning spin - stock image. (48694096)

6. Fun on the water

Pitching up beside a lake or river may also be on your summer agenda, but having fun on the water without the proper permits could land you with a hefty fine.

There are strict rules and laws when it comes to outdoor activities such as fishing in the UK, and it is worth being aware that rules in Northern Ireland and Scotland can differ to those in England and Wales.

In England you must have a rod fishing licence if you’re fishing for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, smelt or eel with a rod and line in and you risk a fine of up to £2,500 if you’re fishing and cannot show a valid rod fishing licence when asked. Other rules about crossing private land would also still apply and it is advisable to check with the owners of the water, particularly if it's a lake, as local rules or angling club permits may also be needed.

To learn more about getting a fishing licence visit www.gov.uk/fishing-licences

Activities on England's waterways may require you to have a permit in many situations
Activities on England's waterways may require you to have a permit in many situations

Some water sports on England's waterways also require a permit.

Paddleboards, canoes, kayaks and other craft using rivers, canoes and waterways in England and Wales must only be taken out if paddlers have a licence. This can be obtained with British Canoeing membership, and like fishing, you do risk a fine of up to £1,000 if caught on the water by an enforcement officer without the proper permission. Learn more about a waterways licence for paddlers here.



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