‘Deep in the woods, 10 minutes from my car’: the platform helping wild camping beginners find a pitch

The dawn chorus is loud in the woods as I unzip my tent to peer out at the new day and a sea of bluebells. I make tea and drink it slowly, enjoying the peace. It’s a perfect start to the morning after my first solo wild camp.

I had found my slice of the wild via CampWild, a platform that connects campers with UK landowners willing to let people stay. Set up by Tom Backhouse and Alex Clasper last year, it aims to open up wild spaces and encourage more people to try staying off-grid. “We know being outdoors helps mental health. We want to make it easy for people to access wild spaces and connect to nature,” says Alex.

Alex Clasper, left, and Tom Backhouse founded the CampWild site last year

I’m near East Grinstead, less than an hour from my home in Brighton (and less than an hour from London). After breakfast, I stroll in the vast woods then pack up and drive home. I’m at my desk in time to start work. “You can have a wild experience, even close to the city,” says Alex. “Though our site offers plenty for the experienced wild camper, we have places for everyone, including novices and families – and you have it all to yourself.”

As a new solo wild camper I feel safer using CampWild than heading off alone and facing the risk of being moved on. Everyone who books is sent a route map with detailed descriptions (including pictures) of how to locate your camp, as well as OS coordinates, and I find my spot easily.

Campers agree to a code of conduct: taking everything away with them and leaving the site as found (even submitting photos of the pitched tent and the space afterwards). While the maximum stay is two nights, you can link places to create a longer itinerary.

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I’m deep in the woods but just a 10-minute walk from my car. A bright moon rises, lending a stage-set feel to the scene, and I lie looking at the stars, listening to the sounds of the forest before I eventually go to bed. There are noises in the night (deer? badgers?) but I sleep unperturbed.

The CampWild site is easy to search by location and “Wild Grade” covering things like difficulty of getting there and remoteness of site (there’s also a portfolio of shared campsites which have facilities but a “wild” feel). Members get discounts on outdoor gear, advice on kit needed, and access to tutorials and podcasts on adventuring too. Other exclusive wild camping options include an ancient rainforest in Cornwall and a remote site near a waterfall in the Yorkshire Dales. Landowners range from small regenerative farmers to vast estates, with many using the extra income for conservation projects.

The dream for many, of course, is that one day all UK land will be accessible, with wild camping permitted as it is Scotland. Until then sites such as CampWild offer a viable alternative. As I start work, I find it hard to believe my day began deep in a forest. I wish all mornings could start this way.

Membership of CampWild costs £20 for a household, camping £10 a night


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