Having lived in the UK for 4 years, I have only done a big hike + wild camping in the lake district and in Snowdonia, where I have read, the rules about wild camping are more relaxed and tolerated then in the rest of the country.

However, I have a free weekend coming, and would love to have a nice break from the London's life, and go hiking from I guess saturday morning to Sunday evening.

In addition to walk in a nice natural environment in a part of England that I have not visited yet, I want to test my new poncho / half tent, see if that is any good.

But I am a bit worried about finding a nice place to spend the night :(

From everything I read, it is quite hard to find a place where wild camping is tolerated in England, and I guess specially "around" London ( I am looking at max 2h train)

So would any of you know a nice forest to visit, and a quite place around where I could as well set up for the night, leaving in the morning 5 tiny holes in the ground, the only thing I need to pin my pncho/half tent to the ground :)

I guess for those who know him, I am looking to do something like Alastair Humphreys site, and his microadventures as he calls it !

  • 1
    +1 -- I am intrigued by poncho/half tent. Is it a gigantic poncho? Or what?
    – ab2
    Feb 4, 2016 at 3:57

4 Answers 4


It is illegal to wild camp in England outside of Dartmoor. A lot of our woodlands are privately owned. It maybe relaxed in places, as in, people get away with it, but you might find that harder down near London. You may need permission to wild camp some areas.

However... for forests near London to visit you could have a look at Epping Forest, it sits between London and Essex and is about 2500 hectares of forest, heath, bog, rivers and grassland. It should be within your distance to travel.

There's a number of forests in the south east and east of England to consider too, 2 hours by train however does not get you that far from London (which in itself can take a good hour to cross so depends where you are?). You can find more forests in the UK from this list. You need to look at Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Essex, Kent, Surrey, and Berkshire, as these are the closest counties to London. They're also called the Home Counties.

You have Heartwood Forest in Hertfordshire, Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, Bedgebury Forest in Kent, Winterfold Forest in Surrey... and loads more. There are also plenty of unnamed or small woodlands in most counties to help extend your search.

As a side take a look at: Wild Camping in the Brecon Beacons and Where in Europe is Wild Camping Permitted. Both make good reading on wild camping in the UK :)


If you really want to camp I would recommend the New Forest as there are lots of campsites there and plenty of walking for at least a weekend.

The problem is most of Southern England is pretty much all residential or farmland so there are few good places where you can wild camp reliably.

There are probably also plenty of camping locations along the North downs way, South downs way and other long distance walks nearby. But I've never tried camping at any of them as if its just an hour train it seems better to me to just do a day walk.

  • This thought came to me too, the forests in the South you can cross in a few hours, not really days.
    – Aravona
    Feb 5, 2016 at 7:53

You won't find enough continuous forest for what you want in southern England.

But (about 20 years ago) I walked and wild camped (actually bright orange bivvy bags) a fair stretch of the south downs way. It was late December but colder than the weather we've been having recently. I got there by regional train from London.

I've also wild camped in the Ashdown forest, but that was a matter of hiking through it with an overnight there - it's not big enough for a 2-day hike. Again it's easy from London.

If you want to wild camp you're much less likely to get caught at this time of year as you'll almost certainly stop hiking after dark and people will be indoors. But it's basically not allowed.


re Epping Forest: Epping Forest is quite thin... plus it's near enough urban areas (Essex, eek!) that I'd be slightly concerned about being beaten up by urban Yoof, and/or laughed at, as I approached my chosen place.

Bear in mind too that in South-East England at the moment there are in fact some illegal immigrants who live out in the wild... probably nobody knows how many. Even in the eventuality that you meet them they'll probably be fine... but it just might happen.

Plus I bet there are wardens there ... in short, I would recommend some special forces-style stealth techniques: get there around 4 pm and lurk in some bushes; show no light; play no music; leave early in the morning...

Also, I hate to pour water on your enthusiasm, but ... it's, um, February... possibly the coldest month of the year! It'll be something to tell your grandkids, assuming you survive the night.

  • If you do encounter fugitives living in the "wild", you are for sure in for a great experience! (Not that I think this is likely but anyway)
    – imsodin
    Feb 6, 2016 at 21:55

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