Sadly, there’s not really a (legal) chance to camp wild in England, so too often the option is a campsite with tarmac and not a lot of privacy. Nearly Wild Camping is a network of places across the UK offering…you guessed it…nearly wild pitches. Dark skies, maybe a composting loo, definitely peace and quiet.
So far, there are 65 Nearly Wild locations in England, Scotland and Wales (plus two in Italy and one in Spain) – most with no outdoor lights at night and guaranteed distance between pitches to ensure peace and privacy.
A Wildness Rating works the other way round to what you might expect – 1* have facilities and are close to civilisation and 5* are remote land with no facilities (not for everyone). The majority are 3* with basic facilities and a wilder feel.
“They’re more than a place to sleep,” says Lee Barton, who looks after the admin and is working hard to build up the network of landowners. “These ‘sites’ offer the chance to explore – through guided walks, star-gazing, badger-watching, having a go at some regular tasks (from feeding the chickens to carving a spoon), cooking up homegrown veg on your campfire and more.”
From farms to woods – peaceful camping
Each location is different – from family farms to nature reserves and hilltop smallholdings to riverside woods. Each listing has a personal note describing what to expect, any facilities and any restrictions (not suitable for young children, for example). It costs £20 to join.
Some owners are more detailed than others in their descriptions and there aren’t many photos at the moment, but it’s easy to see whether the facilities you need are available or not. There are few possibilities for campervans or caravans, though it might be worth checking with owners in case they can come up with an option.
“We’ve got almost 1,000 subscription memberships, a growing social media following and numerous business supporters,” says Lee, who’s given up his day job to work full-time on Nearly Wild. “A lot of that is thanks to the original article in Campfire Magazine!
“We’ll have a bigger presence this year at The Bushcraft and Countryfile Live shows along with our newly launched family member Nearly Wild Exploration. This gives us a connection with The Small Woods Association and The National Association of AONBs.”
If you like the idea of an alternative to bigger campsites, here are some more options for you:
- CampSpace – it’s like AirBNB for campers. More than a thousand places to pitch a tent on every continent (except Antarctica), in gardens, paddocks and unusual places
- Gamping – inexpensive private camping spaces in locations all over the world.
- Goboony – a ‘dating’ service for motorhome and campervan owners and for campers who’d like a holiday or to test out a campervan before taking the plunge themselves.