Camp in MY garden. You'll be more than welcome!
Wild camping isn't so easy to do in Europe. We seem to like rules and regulation and we don’t have the same proportion of wilderness as Australia, the Americas, and Africa. It can be hard to find commercial campsites in tourist hotspots which aren’t exposed, unscreened, crowded and regimented. Your get to share your neighbours' conversations, snores and other personal sound effects, and if their housekeeping is a different standard to yours it can be hard to relax. While you do get a reliable standard in terms of facilities – bathrooms, showers etc - for me and many others the ‘camping in rows’ thing simply doesn't fulfil my leisure dreams. If you don't do crowds, the idea of camping in a domestic garden or on properly private land might be perfect for you.
I live in Devon in the South West of the UK. I’m close to sandy beaches, magnificent moorland and the historic city of Exeter. I've been working on my garden for 25 years and very few people get to see it. When I read about Camp in my Garden a few years ago it immediately got my attention, as I like to share, chat, and meet new people. It’s a fashionable concept – collaborative consumption, the sharing economy. From couchsurfing to lift-sharing and dog-lending, people are loosening up and being less possessive. In some cases you can even make a little money from these activities but mainly it’s about sharing and social interaction.
So here’s the principle - to enable travellers to spend a few nights staying in private gardens or private land at a low (or no) cost. These micro-campsites vary immensely – from a small urban backyard with easy access to a major city - to rustic and remote places. Travellers can use the site to find a cheap alternative to a city hotel when every penny counts, or enjoy the privilege of drifting around a stunning private garden in a spectacular location without the stress of being hemmed in by rows of other tents a few feet away.
Campinmygarden.com sites vary enormously, from the very basic - a simple patch of grass for your tent, with access to a WC and a cold water tap - to a choice of glamping options including shepherds huts, yurts and gypsy caravans. Most hosts offer hot water and showers, many offer wifi and cooking facilities, and occasionally the menu includes bicycles, lifts to the station, guided tours and hot meals. Travellers can experience incredible generosity and hospitality from extremely warm and sociable hosts. I registered my garden in 2012, offering 24/7 access to a bathroom and water supply, a wifi connection, car parking and a pitch at the end of my garden on a daisy lawn between a beech hedge and a weeping birch. It’s beside my summerhouse which has a sofabed and power (this makes a great bolthole if the weather is extreme). There’s a barbeque and outdoor furniture. I can also take campervans.
This isn't big business, and it certainly won’t threaten the commercial sites. I get a gentle half dozen campers a year, and I remember every one of them. This thing works – enterprising interesting travellers and sociable hosts. No space for fussy people on either side - we cut out the rules, behave nicely, and look after each other. Trying it from the traveller’s point of view, I've recently enjoyed a few days in a lovely wildlife garden on the Isle of Wight. All we could see from our pitch was trees, a couple of horse paddocks, rolling countryside and a constantly changing sky laced with birds of prey. OK - so no 24/7 access to a shower and hairdryer, but there was an outdoor WC and a kind host who said on our first night that if the weather got worse (the wind having already busted a tent-pole) we could sleep in his lounge. He’d leave the door unlocked all night, just in case. That’s proper sharing, worth a great deal more than the £5 a night we both charge.
Campinmygarden.com has around 800 gardens on offer on six continents. Some of the more glamorous locations include Tonga, Fiji, and Jamaica. About 60% are in Europe and the rest are all over the world, apart from Antarctica! I’m a volunteer for this group. Take a look, or email me at email@example.com for further information.