This is understandably a subject that comes up on a regular basis so Ged kindly put together an article that should answer a lot of questions for people and provide a reference to start getting hold of land to use.
Seeking and gaining land access permission.
After some recent threads and questions about this topic, Tony asked if I could put together some tips for people seeking private land use permission and access for practising their Bushcraft Survival skills. I will admit that this has taken some thinking about as even though it’s something I’ve done many times, in the UK and other countries for both private and commercial projects, it isn’t easy. It takes time and patience to achieve it, but most of all a sense of respect for other people’s property and good manners to keep it.
I’ll break it down into three areas, Research, Approach and Management.
Firstly Research. Some basic outdoor skills are required here, mainly the ability to read a map and interpret its information. I’m not going to digress into a map reading tutorial in this article, as said, this is an essential skill you really should get in the tool box first, but, some pointers here will be.
- Learn about the features, both man-made and natural boundaries, the nearest buildings, footpaths, it is here you will find the clues of whom the landowner is and where to ask.
- Check for the essentials, what kind of woodland is it, Evergreen or Deciduous, is there water near by, is it secluded enough or is there public rights of way going through it, the map will show all this, you just have to look.
- Then ask yourself is it a managed woodland, do you really want to be constantly disturbed by chainsaws and machinery going all the time, - tip, if there is a network of vehicle track lanes going around the area on the map, chances are it’s managed for produce or a 4x4 training area.
Do a Goggle search about the locations you have found on the map that maybe suitable, this is good for finding out names of landowners and the addresses, you could try the Land Register, I never personally needed to.
Now the Approach, make sure you know what you want, don’t waste a land owners time and make sure you can back up any questions they will ask, there will be lots – your not going to get it on a plate.
- Think about your personal appearance, I would avoid camouflage clothing and carrying allsorts of tools on your belt at this point, some old jeans, jacket and Wellington boots (if they invite you in, easy to take off at the door).
- Do it alone and leave the pet dogs at home.
- Have pre-prepared contact info ready to handover, I don’t mean business cards or such but some hand written details to give the landowner with your name and telephone numbers, even an address.
- Make time, I once spent all day with a Welsh Hill Farmer I met for the first time whilst seeking permission to run training on his land, I had a flask and sandwiches in my day sack and he consumed most of it, This was nearly twenty years ago and we’ve been firm friends since, seeing his family grow up and the farm change through the times has been a real pleasure.
- Be honest, if you intend to use the land for commercial reasons, say so at the on set, if you don’t and then do it sneakily, it’s a breach of trust and trust is the foundation to any relationship.
- What are you prepared to give in return, this maybe in time or money, heck, I’ve rounded up and sheared sheep, cut trees, chopped firewood and much more, it’s their land and if you want to use it, they have a right to ask for payment.
And finally the Management, of both the land and the relationship with the landowner, this is probably the hardest but most rewarding part.
- Be responsible for your actions, do you really need to chop down trees for firewood when there is a mass of dead stuff about, you might even need to bring fire logs into the site so as not to cause too much disturbance and remember, if you do burn all the deadfall, what will you use to build shelters with, if shelter building was something you wanted to do that is.
- Leave the alcohol fuelled binge parties for another time and place, apart from the obvious safety issues of people being completely wrecked in the woods, if the land owner decides to drop in and see you, and they will, your not exactly going to create a good image in this manner. A hip flask with a hearty supper and good company around the fire at night I find is fine and assists with a goodnights sleep, I’ve had landowners join me in this and it’s been very welcomed.
- Leave the place as you find it – simple, I have woods that I have exclusive permissions on and throughout the year I will leave the campfire ‘chute and base set up but every now and then it will get removed and re-located giving the ground chance to recover, which takes no time at all.
- Make time to talk to the landowner, not just when you want something off them, offer to help out, you’ll love it and I find a little something at Christmas time is always appreciated, I would advise a good bottle of Scotch.
Finally, to complete this article I recently took a walk upon a local estate I have access to and asked the ‘old man’ what his thoughts where about my original approach all those years ago when I first asked for access to his land, and this was before Ray Mears became the household name he is today, so I couldn’t use that angle and he simply said “I liked you, you where polite”.
Thanks for reading