As the British public search for something different from traditional camping and caravanning, Alex Black looks at how farmers can tap into the demand for agritourism experiences that are wild.
Interest in wild camping has increased rapidly as people look to explore new areas of the UK and enjoy open spaces. Wild camping is prohibited in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while camping is permitted on most unenclosed land in Scotland.
But landowners may be able to cash in on the popularity of wild camping by offering nights in locations outside of the usual kind of camping and caravanning sites.
Agritourism opportunity – Wild with Consent
Wild With Consent, which connects campers with landowners who have private, off the beaten track sites for off-grid and wild camping, launched last summer in Northumberland and is now looking to expand its offering beyond the county borders.
A flat area of ground which is suitable for a non-4WD vehicle
Good access track also suitable for non-4WD vehicles as some campervans and motorhomes have relatively low clearance
Preferably access to be controlled with a coded lock on a gate
The area must be fenced off if livestock are in the same field
The visitor has exclusive access to the site from 1pm to 12 noon the next day
The company works with landowners to find sites which fit into its ethos and provides guidance on a pricing point.
Jas Moore, farms 344 hectares in West Learmouth, Northumberland. The farm has traditionally been run as a mixed farm with permanent grass, an arable rotation and 24ha of potatoes. Last year, the farm went organic.
Ms Moore said it seems a good small scale farm diversification option with no infrastructure costs.
“Our only concern was accessibility,” she said.
Guests book directly through Wild With Consent and pay through the website which it then sends the landowner the booking fee net of its 20 per cent commission.
Once a booking is made, the landowner will be sent all the details including the vehicle registration. Guests are then able to communicate directly with the landowner through the messaging system on the website, allowing landowners to make arrangements direct as needed.
Planning requirements for this type of agritourism
Current planning permission exemptions allow landowners to take 28 bookings per year. However, once Wild With Consent has received its exempt organisation certification later this year, its new membership structure will enable landowners to take 60 bookings per year.
Ms Moore said their experience had been very positive and had found campers to be ‘genuinely interested’ in what was happening on-farm.
“I tell them about good walks and where they are most likely to see wildlife. It is gratifying when they see something unexpected. Our site is beside a small burn in a lush valley recently planted with trees. We have laid down some hardcore because campervans do not always travel well on wet grass.”
The current planning exemptions allow landowners to take a maximum of three campervans per holding, however their curated sites are isolated and only available to one campervan per night.
This exclusivity means a higher price point and allows landowners to make use of smaller potential pitches. Visitor charges are £25 for a standard site and up to £75 for a super premium site, per night per campervan.
Visitors are expected to follow a code of conduct with a two-way review system allowing campers to review sites and landowners to review campers.
Campers are expected to leave no trace and remove anything they bring onto the site with them. All rubbish is to be removed by the customer, they are expected to leave the site as they found it and to respect the wildlife, natural environment and heritage.
They are told not to light fires unless they are given explicit permission from the host and to use the toilet in the campervan or motorhome.
And Ms Moore said none of the campers they had hosted so far have left any trace.
“I had expected to pick up the odd piece of rubbish from time to time but I have found that those wanting to get off the beaten track are very respectful of their surroundings,” she said.
Ms Moore added she would definitely recommend hosting wild overnight campervanning to others.
“Not only has it been a great way to earn extra income with very little effort but seeing our farm through the eyes of customers enthused by their camping experience makes me realise just how lucky I am to live here,” she said.