If you have caught the bushcraft bug and keen to get outside and set up camp, you should make sure you know how to bushcraft responsibly. Things like land ownership, laws and bylaws and regulations are all important to find out about, before you pitch your tent.
In the UK, there are no specific laws relating to bushcraft, but there are laws relevant to bushcraft activities like knives, fires, foraging, fishing, trapping plus access and camping. Here are our some things you should know to make sure you bushcraft responsibly.
Camping and fires
You must get the permission of landowner of the site that you are planning to use to camp or light fires. Most land in the UK is either privately owned or owned by local authorities. In many cases, landowner’s permission is needed to be able to even just go onto their land. The Forestry Commission may be able to help you find suitable campsites. If they don’t give you permission, then just keep trying to find somewhere until you locate a suitable area. It will be worth all the effort! You may find it helpful to familiarise yourself with The Countryside Code before you set out. There are many public foothpaths and bridleways criss-crossing England and these public rights of ways are marked on Ordnance Survey maps. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 also shows established areas of open access land where access by foot is allowed.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 covers all of the UK and states that it is against the law to remove any wild plant if you do not have the prior permission of the landowner. There is special protection for plants in areas known as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and National Nature Reserves. In areas that you have legal access to, you can pick fungi, flowers, berries, nuts and leaves, but you still need permission from the landowner to dig out roots, or to remove an entire plant. You should only take foliage and flowers from large areas of a plant, and you really must only pick what you actually need.
Trapping and snaring
There are legal restrictions with using snares. You must always get the landowner’s permission beforehand and follow the codes of practice set out by Defra. Even with permission from the landowners, you may still not be outside the relevant legislation for some activities like trapping animals and removing protected plants.
Before you head out anywhere with a knife, you should familiarise yourself with the current law. The laws can vary depending on the particular type of knife, your age and the circumstances you want to have it for.
Don’t let the regulations put you off enjoying your next bushcraft experience, there is no better place than the great outdoors. Before you head out, check out our Top 10 bushcraft kit essentials.