All of the UK is owned by someone or some organisation. Wild camping does happen but is often not possible or realistic for many people hence the reason for creating Nearly Wild Camping.
Nearly Wild Camping has been working hard to help people access wilder camping opportunities for some time, whilst also ensuring some benefit to the landowners. We are not aiming to replace or challenge wild camping, we are here to make wilder camping more accessible whilst giving real benefit to both campers and landowners.
Nearly Wild Camping (www.nearlywildcamping.org) has been running for some years, has almost 1000 members and 65 locations already. We are a corporate partner of the National Association for AONBs and we have recently been granted Welsh Government camping exemption certificate for locations (we are still waiting to hear about our England licence, though hope to hear soon).
By setting up a wild camping organisation of which both campers and landowners are members, we have started to establish a real community of campers and locations. It is important to us to offer a range of wilder experiences, including importantly locations which help people learn and develop their skills. And, if we are really able to help people re-connect with nature and the countryside it’s important that we can have locations which are close to the urban areas where so many of us live.
We have worked hard to keep our prices low to make sure that affordability isn’t a barrier and we know from feedback that it works. However, we also know that the income that the landowners get matters, helping them to find the money they need to manage their land. We have spoken with some of ourlandowners about considering a small payback to local wildlife and landscape organisations to help with their work, but we do not demand it. We would of course be happy to pilot other ways of doing this and have done some trials of our own already.
Our booking system is not online, but direct to the landowner. This is deliberate and based on our experience of working with both online and direct booking methods. We have found that the ‘good old human relationship’ ensure our members get the best service, helping campers connect with the landowner and learn about the countryside more directly through them.
We decided to be a club (it’s easy to join, and only £20 per year so it should not exclude anyone on price!) to help give landowners confidence, and to provide a framework for us to build a network and community for people to join, where they can learn about and enjoy responsible camping either as a camper or a landowning provider – and some are both.
Working with the John Muir Award programme, we are developing camping guidance and we are soon to launch social weekends with a learning aim, focussing on low impact, leave no trace, give something back camping. These will develop camper skills, build social networks and enable attendees to access to some of our more sensitive camp locations.
We are very proud of what our small team have achieved so far, mainly through voluntary efforts and with only a small initial external set-up grant (from a Powys LEADER programme). We are now a self financing success story and we aim to now build up what we offer.
We are proud of our Welsh roots and very pleased that Wales has been the first country to grant us the camping exemption certificate. We believe this is an important part of building a greener economy in Wales and fits with important Welsh Government agendas. We have 5 years’ practical experience of working with campers and landowners and have a huge amount of knowledge to share. We are now starting to blog, vlog and share this, based on real experience. In addition, our founders have now also launched Nearly Wild (www.nearlywild.org), a community interest company, to help other types of nature-based business and the people seeking to buy nature-based products and services.
We have lots more plans in the pipeline, so please do help support us, get involved or become a Nearly Wild camper or camping location.
The Nearly Wild Camping team.