How do you 'wild camp' in a motorhome in the UK?

The term wild camping is used widely by people that holiday in their motorhomes but don’t actually go onto motorhome sites or campsites.  They find places to park up where ever it suits them. 

So there is no where to get hooked up into electric. You are unable to empty any black and grey waste – there are no facilities to do this. You can’t just ‘fill up the water tank’. But – you don’t have any site rules to follow. And you have no other people that you need to worry about. Most people wild camp to be on their own and have nature and all it has to offer on their doorstep.

Lets sort out some of the terminology:

  • Wild parking (parking in the wild, in a city, in a carpark somewhere)
  • Wild camping (do the above and getting out the chairs and tables (please don’t do this . . .))

There are some very slight differences between the two – and of course you have people that will chortle if you say that you are ‘wild camping’ in a motorhome with a toilet, and running water, and a shower and a fully stocked fridge! haha – but that’s fine.

The main point of this post is that if you choose to go ‘Wild camping or parking’ that you know the key considerations and things to be aware of.

Is wild camping safe?

This has got to be the number one thing that people worry about – is it safe? The first night of wild camping is always a bit nervy.

Will anyone break in? Will someone bang on the door? Will I ask to be moved on? Well – for most of the time, the answer to those questions is likely to be no, no and no.

We live fulltime in Freddy – and we certainly do not stay on site fulltime. We spend between 80% and 90% of our time wild parking or wild camping. 

We have been asked to move on once. That was in our early days and we were finding our feet – and returned to the same spot too many times, whilst the house was selling. So we consider this our fault – and our early days lack of knowledge

We have been knocked on once – by the police – because someone had reported us as being ‘on holiday in our motorhome’. This was during a lockdown from the Covid-19 pandemic. They were super lovely and said they would keep an eye out for us and to take care of ourselves. We even gave them a coffee. It was February and cold . . . 

So the answer to this question has to be yes. It is perfectly safe to wild camp, you just need to be mindful and considerate of where you are parking.

So what are the wild camping legal rules?

So the first thing is that strictly speaking, you are not allowed to wild camp in the UK.  Wild camping as it is referred to in Scotland (Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2003) for example, means with a backpack and a tent – not a 7m motorhome.. 

All land belongs to someone. Be it the National Trust, the Forestry Commission, the local council, Farmer Brown up the road. It is all owned by someone, so strictly speaking, you should ask the permission of the land owner.

It is a misconception that you are allowed to wild camp in your motorhome in Scotland. It is fair to say though that in England and Wales the law is less flexible that in our friendly neighbours of Scotland . . . 

However – wild camping is possible and is tolerated – as long as you are respectful, observant, kind and thoughtful. Keep reading to find out how.

The number one rule for wild camping . . .

Take only pictures and leave only footsteps.

It doesn’t get any more complicated that that.  If you want to have the privilege of nestling your motorhome in some beautiful surroundings and being able to see beautiful views and nature out of all your windows, you need to treat it with respect and behave with integrity.  Make sure that you leave the place exactly as you found it – or sometimes cleaner. If someone has left rubbish in the spot – just take it with you and throw it when you have the chance. 2 reasons for this really:

  1. Its a decent thing to do for our wildlife and earth.
  2. Someone that comes into the area to walk their dog or hike with their family – will make the assumption that you left it there! I know – incredibly unfair – but motorhomes have not picked up a good reputation in recent years, through the lack of respect of the entitled or un-educated few. 

Things to consider before you park your motorhome or camper

  • Always be conscious of the surroundings. Blocking a gate to a field or farm or an entrance to buildings is thoughtless. And it could get you a knock!.
  • Make sure that you are not parked up in a passing place on a small narrow lane. It is there for drivers to safely pass each other – not for you to park up! 
  • If there is a sign that says ‘No Overnight Parking’, ‘No Sleeping Overnight’. ‘No Camping Overnight’ – then don’t. Respect that there may have been issues there which is why the sign has gone up in the first place.
  • Be respectful of the surrounding countryside. Try not to damage the verge, trees, hedges or wildlife areas.
  • Stay away from people’s houses – they don’t like it and are more likely to report it – meaning you are more likely to get a knock for your wild camping activity.
  • Arrive late and leave early – most people sleep at night so you are unlikely to attract any attention.
  • Do not ‘set up camp’. Putting out the awning, the table and chairs, lighting a fire and playing loud music just ruins it for everyone. 
  • NEVER throw out rubbish or empty black waste. Black waste (poop and wee) should only be disposed of in a chemical disposal point. Have spare cassettes.
  • Try and find a space of your own – don’t park where there are loads of other motorhomes or campervans. The whole point of wild parking or camping is to be with nature and alone not with 10 new neighbours!

Essentials before wild camping . . .

Electric and Solar

We absolutely recommend you charge everything up before you leave.

The laptops, the battery packs, the phones, the camera batteries, the iPad – all the gadgets and gizmos that you want for your wild camping/off-grid experience.

Give the solar panels a good wash on the roof to make sure they are operating as expected.

In the UK winter – consider a generator as a back up if it is winter time. The sun is so low in the sky, your solar will not suffice.

Black Waste

Make sure you set off with empty cassettes for your black waste. We have a spare in the garage and recommend that you do that too.

If you use chemicals in your toilet – then you should only empty at chemical disposal point.

If you have a composting toilet – you should be good!

You can always take a spade and dig a hole in the woods – but beware of ticks and adders and also stinging nettles !! 

Gas

Fill your gas up completely so that you have enough to run the fridge, fire the oven (or BBQ if it is a gas one) and heat the motorhome. 

As you know you can’t always rely on the British weather. 

Download the myLPG.eu app on your phone. It gives you locations of LPG garages in the UK (becoming less and less common to find).

Water

Fill up the water tank until it can take no more before you set off.

If you normally drink bottled water when you are away – then get a few of those in too. Or simply carry a few 5 Lt bottles as spares.

If you get caught short, people will often allow you to fill up at a garage or café. But when I say fill up – I mean fill up a 2lt bottle to get you through – not hook your hose up and take 140 litres!

 

Hopefully all of these things will have been useful for you if you are considering wild camping or wild parking.

The final things to say on this particular subject – trust your instincts – if it feels wrong then move on and find somewhere else. Always pack up at night as if you were about to drive away. Hopefully it will never be an issue for you (or us) but if you need to drive away to get yourself out of a situation – you need to be able to be out of bed and in the driving seat  ready to move as soon as possible.

The most important thing to remember is how much fun it can be when you are literally at one with nature and there is not a soul about. The sunsets can be amazing and the stars will shine like nothing you see in a city or town with street lighting – like a sprinkling of diamonds just for you.

Happy wild camping. 

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