Tips From A Land Owner on Gaining Permission to Camp
Written By Leslie Swain (Pictured Above)
I see a lot of people on many of the outdoor groups asking how to get 'permissions' ie. land you have permission to practice various incarnations of our skill sets on. I see some very silly answers and some very oversimplified ones too so I thought, as a farmer and the manager of many of the sites that members here try to use WITHOUT permission, I'd share what tends to work best when people approach ME and what is extremely unlikely to work too.
1. Don't cold call/ knock on doors without warning.
If you do this, especially on a dark evening or in the middle of a busy day or even in the middle of my precious time off, I'm likely to give you very short shrift. Write a letter first explaining who you are, what you want and what your experience is, which leads me to
2. Tell me what your skills are. I'm not interested in people who offer to "keep an eye on the land" or "clear brambles" (they're a useful part of the biodiversity in my woodland are brambles!) or even "cut firewood". What I actually need are skills that I haven't got. Plumbing, welding, electrical repairs, vehicle repair or maintenance, maybe the job you actually do for a living. Skills that save me money and time are immensely useful since I don't have much of either... The chap who can mend my tractor has permission to pretty much-run riot on my land! Try to think what will be useful and then offer it. It'll need to be something that isn't ten a penny. Mole catching is excellent too. Lol.
3. When you manage to attract my attention enough to get a meetup, don't turn up in camo or with an axe and a knife strapped to your belt. Put on a pair of normal trews and leave the weaponry in the car, please. If I see an axe or a saw about your person the first time I see you then you'll never use my land in a million years unless you're a cabinet maker!
4. Please don't call me "mate". I'm not your mate until I know you and you earn the right to be called mine. Keep your language polite, respectful and most definitely not racist, sexist, or homophobic - that'll see you off my land for good I'm afraid.
5. Don't ask for a long list of things when you come see me. Start with small stuff and prove you're trustworthy and can follow instructions first. I've had enough bad experiences with supposed bushcrafters who set light to everything they see and chop down my saplings to fill a novel. If you prove yourself trustworthy and useful then good things will invariably follow.
6. If you DO get permission, don't tell the world and her dog about it. Discretion is good but schtumm is even better. Don't bring your mates and half an off-license with you, which leads me nicely to......
7. Don't bring stupid amounts of alcohol with you please. If I find you on my land in charge of bladed tools and p*ssed I'll escort you off pronto and you'd have to do something pretty spectacularly good to ever get back on.
8. Say thankyou in reasonable ways rather than trying to bribe me. You don't need to bring presents every time you come altho a bottle at Xmyth would be very welcome providing you can afford it and certainly wouldn't make me think any less of you, but it's absolutely not expected or required. Just be a nice person.
9. Put some work in to maintain the relationship.
10. Leave everything as you found it or preferably better.
***Oh, and as an afterthought, get insurance!! I'm more likely to give you permission if you have, or intend to get (and can show proof of) insurance for what you do.
I can tell you that the people who have permissions on my land have permission for very different things. I have people who fly and rehabilitate birds of prey who don't camp at all. I have people who train search and rescue dogs who only overnight occasionally. I have pest controllers who shoot with advance notice and permission on specific pieces of land only. I have outdoor instructors who tend to be day-users only. I have no bushcrafters at present simply because none have proven their trustworthiness or worth recently. I have a very small number of LNT wild campers and they're absolutely the best users of my land because they give way more than they cost me no matter how much time they spend here in pursuit of their hobby. They mostly provide skills that I don't have or services that I need. Occasionally I give permission because it's simply a good thing to do, as with mountain rescue and search and rescue groups, or because I love the sheer beauty involved in their hobby, such as the people who fly raptors here (who actually provide a valuable service here too but most are just wonderful to see). Try to think about what you want to do from my perspective - will I be interested or will I just see the potential for damage......?
All of this sounds so simple but it's so rarely followed.
You won't get anything if you don't try.
Wherever you try, good luck.