Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stealth Camping in a Van

Coming to the end of 'The Raider's Road'-Galloway Forest
We don’t really refer to parking up a camper for the night in a quiet, off the beaten track location as ‘stealth camping’ in the UK. Wild Camping usually suffices although its fair to say, some people do use the term for parking up for the night in an urban location. A couple of weeks ago I was up in South West Scotland in my V Dub T4 and as usual, avoiding campsites like the plague. One of the pleasures of owning a camper for me is discovering some quiet place in a pleasant rural location where I can hunker down for the night. Blissfully free of the nerve shredding realities of social camping. Doors slamming, couples arguing, kids crying, dogs barking, the stench of Asda burgers barbecuing etc etc. And people pay for this!!!

On my way home I dropped in to see an old friend who was parked up on a campsite in his T4 and who was paying £22 a night to stay on a massive site that resembled a 1970‘s Pontins holiday camp! So...on that basis, wild camping for four nights in Scotland saved me £88. Which easily covered my fuel costs.

One of the best ways to make wild camping work-as I’ve mentioned before on a blog piece- is a bit of forward planning using OS maps and Google Earth to suss out wild camping spots. Always have a back up plan in case that attractive looking clearing in a Forestry Commission plantation is actually gated and locked. It’s pretty frustrating to arrive somewhere where you hope to spend the night as darkness begins to fall and discover that you are in a no go situation.

Driving around in the dark looking for somewhere to park up can on the odd occasion, turn up trumps. I was watching a You Tube video recently where the couple, Scott and Ellie, who go under the moniker ‘The Explorer Buddies’, rolled up in the dead of night at the tip of Pen Llyn (The Lleyn Peninsula) in a NT car park, in thick fog and woke up in the same pea souper the next morning. No one around to disturb their peace and quiet and if the fog had lifted, it would have revealed a most spectacular view of Bardsey Island just across the Bardsey Sound. The other side of the coin though is that you are just as likely to end up parked up in a litter strewn layby; wedged between an Eddie Stobart lorry and a caravan!

Many of our best wild camping sites carry ‘No overnight camping' signs. These can be erected by private landowners, the local council, organisations like the NT and Forestry commission. The latter bodies don’t usually have the legal powers to enforce this or generally won’t bother. Most NT and FC employees want a quiet life and don’t want to get into a situation with someone they can see is just passing through. A convoy of Travellers arriving en masse is a different kettle of fish! Private landowners are more tricky. Certainly large landowners are more likely to employ forelock tugging goons to do their bidding and often will try to move you on. As for local councils; like the NT and FC, they generally don’t have anyone to enforce these regs and certainly the stretched local police have better things to do than pester a middle aged couple rustling up a curry in their camper and harming no one.

I’ve often pondered what the situation would be if someone tried to move you on after you had parked up for the night and drunk half a bottle of wine? If they were insistent that you move on then they would be encouraging you to commit a crime! I would interested to see how the police would arbitrate this if you contacted them and told them that a surly gamekeeper was encouraging you to break the law?

Finally...we need to talk about London! I was recently reading the travails of a Facebook friend who found himself unexpectedly £250 poorer after innocently straying into London in his 2002 VW TD and falling foul of the city’s draconian emission charge. Not everyone realizes that most pre 2006 diesel campers and vans have been subject to a £100 a day charge if they stray inside the M25 perimeter, for some time now. Short of sticking on false number plates and flicking the V’s at the city’s CCTV cameras as you enter the zone, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Just don’t go there. If you fancy a city break in your camper, go to somewhere like Edinburgh instead. It’s much nicer anyway and is surrounded by proper countryside and mountains. Not the endless, featureless sprawl that passes for countryside in the Home Counties!

1 comment:

  1. In traveling around Scotland in a camper van, how easy is it to park and to sleep on a street in a town?