Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Survivalism in Britain: The Challenges

This will be the first in a series of articles examining the state of prepping and survivalism in the United Kingdom as it currently stands. And what better place to start than looking from a poor man's perspective at some of the difficulties and restrictions us British survivalists often face in the pursuit of our goals.

I suppose I should preface this by saying that bog standard prepping is as simple affair in this country as anywhere else. Anybody, even of modest wealth and dwelling space can ensure that they have at least a few months worth of food and essential provisions stored away, they can assemble a bug-out-bag, get home bags etc, they can network with like minded friends and family and formulate plans in the event of an emergency. No problem with any of that. However, those of us who wish to take it up a notch and move towards a more full bore survivalist, off-grid homestead lifestyle, face a few more hurdles.


Property and Land

Probably the biggest obstacle aspiring survivalists face in Britain, is simply finding suitable and affordable property. Britain is a small but heavily populated country and we do not have an unlimited supply of land, thus purchasing land and property here is inevitably a more expensive affair than for many of our cousins in the USA, Canada or Australia, for example. To make matters worse, in recent years house price inflation has vastly outpaced wage inflation, with the national average house price now standing at approximately five times the average income. The ratio is even worse in some regions, rural property with land in much of Southern England, particularly in the densely populated counties surrounding London, is phenomenally expensive. Far beyond the reach of those of us with modest incomes, unless you want to be tied to a mortgage for the next twenty years of your life, which to me just doesn't jive with the survivalist/off-grid ethos.

The situation is not so bleak everywhere. In the North East of England, the Scottish Borders, the Highlands and in much of Wales and Northern Ireland, property prices have not seen such drastic increases and thus are much more within reach of the common man. These areas come with the added bonus of sparseness and maintain many wide open, wilderness spaces. Prospective survivalists would do well to consider setting up shop these regions.

Finding property or land is one thing, but what you are allowed to do with your land is another thing entirely. In general you have the right to grow food, collect water, raise livestock such as chickens,
ducks, etc, on any land you own without the involvement of any bureaucracy. Certain buildings can also can erected without planning permission, sheds, workshops, barns, greenhouses, poly tunnels and other utility buildings are usually fine. To build a dwelling however does in most cases require planning permission from your local council, and depending on the location, this can be a frustrating process. For example, to be granted permission to build even the most modest dwelling on designated agricultural land, you will generally be required to show that you will be using the land for agricultural purposes. This may not be too big of an issue for a survivalist, as they likely will be intending to grow crops and raise livestock on the land. Gaining permission to build on protected lands such as woodland, forest or national park land is even more difficult and as above, you will be required to demonstrate a good reason for wanting to build in such a location.

The planning regulations in Britain are unfortunately not at all geared towards accommodating the self build, off-grid or survivalist lifestyle. It is entirely possible to work within the system and get what we want, but it can be a long process that requires patience and dedication. Now I don't wish to turn this into a rant against the planning laws, I agree a certain amount of regulation is needed to protect our countryside from those who happily see it all concreted over and turned into a giant suburb, but it would certainly be nice if the process was liberalised for low impact, off-grid dwellings. Know however that there are other ways and means around all this bureaucracy for those who don't mind going a bit under the radar, I will probably touch upon this topic at a later date.


Huntin', Shootin', Fishin'

Game shooting and fishing are popular rural pursuits in this country. However it is not a simple case of grabbing your gun and heading off to the woods. As I have already mentioned, Britain is a small country, and as such the overwhelming majority of land is privately owned. This means that to lawfully hunt game will invariably require one to gain permission from the landowner. In my experience, most landowners are happy to allow responsible people to shoot on their land, and tossing a few rabbits and pheasants their way from time to time will help keep them sweet. I strongly recommend that any survivalists interested in hunting approach their local farmers and landowners and get some shooting permissions, and build up good relationships with them. Their friendship and co-operation could well be invaluable in a SHTF situation. Some survivalists and preppers have this naive idea that post-SHTF they will just swan into the countryside and hunt for food to their heart's content, but unless they happen to live in a very remote area, this could prove to be seriously problematic. Remember that the land will still be owned by somebody. Look at it from the landowner's perspective, would you feel comfortable in a SHTF/WROL world with a complete stranger on your property, armed with a firearm, crossbow, bow or other weapon? Probably not, and such a scenario could very easily lead to a nasty violent exchange. So it is vital in my opinion to seek shooting permissions well before any signs of trouble. 

I will note that in Scotland, there is a public right to shoot wildfowl on foreshore marshland. Certain areas of public foreshore can also be freely hunted in England and Wales, though some foreshore is privately owned. 

As with land, many of our inland waters, even some rivers, are privately owned. Thus permission must be sought from the owner if you wish to fish for game. There are countless clubs and syndicates across the country that will help facilitate this. For those who live near the coast, sea fishing is more or less unregulated. There is no requirement for a rod licence and anything caught by be taken and eaten. Spearfishing is also legal. 


Guns and Bearing Arms

It's no secret that Britain is not a particularly gun friendly state. Our ancient right to keep and bear arms, (first afforded to us under Common Law, re-affirmed by the Bill of Rights 1689, and later in Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England), has been steadily regulated into oblivion by successive governments over the past century and we are now left with very little in the way of "gun rights" and a public that largely fears the idea of private gun ownership. With that being said, it is however still entirely possible for private individuals to own certain types of firearms within the UK, and getting licenced is not as difficult as some might believe. I personally believe that every survivalist should have some means of defending themselves post-SHTF. If you are not willing to protect what you have worked so hard to build, then there is little point in prepping at all. I won't go into the mechanics of the licensing system here, but I will point out some things to consider before you decide to go down the route of legal gun ownership. 

Number one, being a licenced firearm owner will put you on the state's radar, so to speak. This can be an understandably uncomfortable prospect for a survivalist concerned their privacy and operational security. There is a fear in some British survival circles that in the event of SHTF, the authorities might attempt to seize registered firearms. I'm not so sure about this myself as I doubt they would have the logistics to achieve it, but it is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility. 

Secondly, the establishment for a number of decades now, has made it quite clear that they do not believe in the public owning firearms for self-protection. Whilst it can be lawful to defend yourself with a firearm you happen to possess, self-defence in and of itself is not considered an acceptable reason to be granted a firearm's licence. The only generally accepted reasons are, hunting, pest control, target shooting and collecting. To give any indication that you might want firearms for 'other' purposes could result in you being denied a licence, or your existing licence being revoked and your guns seized, so be careful.

I can't tell British survivalists whether they should or shouldn't own firearms, it's ultimately up to the individual to decide if it is worth their time and effort. For those who decide it is not worth it, there are alternatives. Air rifles up to 12ftlbs of energy and air pistols up to 6ftlbs are legal in England and Wales without a licence for anybody over the age of 18. Whilst these may not be suitable for defence purposes, they are an invaluable tool for hunting small game. Crossbows and bows of any strength can also be freely owned across the UK without a licence, however hunting with them is illegal. 


Public Attitudes 

If I was asked to define what a survivalist is, I would say at our most fundamental core, we are independent minded folk who are simple trying to take responsibility of our own destinies, as far as is humanly possible. We want to reduce our personal dependency on government, on big business, wage slavery, materialism, and live a more simple, agrarian lifestyle. Unfortunately, preppers and survivalists the world over (and Britain is by no means an exception) tend to have a less positive image in the public eye, thanks in no small part to the mainstream media. At best we are seen as eccentric oddballs, kooks and paranoid cranks, at worst we are seen dangerous 'extremists', even potential domestic terrorists.

Modern day British society is heavily urbanised with approximately 80% of the population living in towns or cities. The culture is heavily urban centric too and geared towards rampant consumerism. Many British people simply can't wrap their heads around the concept of survivalism. And why would they? They live in stable and wealthy nation, with all their provisions just a stone's throw away at their local supermarket, or shopping centre. They have a frankly delusional view that true hardship is a thing of the past and society will only continue to get better and better. I don't think they even entertain the thought that the party might one day come to end. All this can make it very difficult for a survivalist to connect with like minded individuals in urbanised areas. That's why I will always recommend moving to the countryside. Rural British folk tend to be much more amenable to survivalist practises and philosophy, indeed many themselves will be passionate gardeners, home growers, smallholders, homesteaders and permaculturalists themselves.  

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Well folks, I hope this little essay has not painted too negative a picture of the UK, or detered any potential Britons interested in survivalism. Really, things are not that bad here in the grand scheme of things. Survivalists and preppers in every country face their own unique problems and challenges, and part of becoming a true survivalist is finding ways to adapt and overcome these challenges.

J.

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