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The right to roam


I spent the last month in Sweden visiting some elderly relatives. My grandmother will be turning 100 next year so we figured it was important to have some quality time together.

During my time here I have wandered the woods and foraged for mushrooms, plants, and berries. There is a ruling in Sweden that states that every person has the right to roam. It is called “Allemansrätten” and translates to “everyman’s right” or the “right of public access”. Some people refer to it as the “right to roam”.

This means that every person in the country has access to nature; forests, and lakes in which to walk, bike, ride, sail, swim, or camp. You are allowed to forage for berries, flowers, and mushrooms. You can pick plants if you do not harm them. You are not allowed to dig up and transplant plants or break branches.





There are restrictions on how close you are allowed to linger next to people’s homes and fields. The most important part of the ruling is that you cannot disturb or destroy anything in your roaming. You are responsible for picking up garbage as you spot it, and to report if wildlife is injured or you see destruction. You are allowed to camp for a day or two and make a fire (unless there is a fire ban in effect) and when you leave, you must ensure that the spot looks as pristine, or preferably better, than it was when you first arrived.


You are not allowed to drive ATV’s or other motor vehicles in the forest. This includes mopeds, 4WDs, electric bikes and camper vans.


This is to ensure that sensitive habitats do not get destroyed, that wildlife is protected and that the peace and quiet can be maintained for all. Hunting and fishing are not allowed unless you have a specific permit.


Lingonberry picking and foraging for mushrooms- typical Swedish pastimes. The mushrooms are yellow-foot chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms.

Growing up in Sweden I didn't take this right for granted and spent hours upon hours roaming the forest learning about the animals and plants. I arrived in Vernon, Canada with the vision that Canada would be like Sweden, just bigger and with even more wonderful wildlife to explore. That is the image that Canada portrays to the rest of the world. Wonderful wilderness where you can feel free.

However, I found myself feeling restricted on where to roam, how to access nature and lakeshores and how to feel free. Everywhere I turned there were no-trespassing signs. Clearly the landowners didn’t want people on their land. The Provincial or National parks had space to truly roam, but here you were not allowed to pick berries, flowers, or mushrooms.


When I finally ended up on a property in Armstrong with a patch of forest, I realised that the reason for the no-trespassing signs were to deter people who otherwise would dump garbage. On the property I live there are beer cans, refrigerators, sofas, and car batteries being chucked off the side of the road. There have even been old cars dumped.


This hurts all the critters living in the woods. The amount of leaked fluid and smashed glass in the forest from these activities make me cry and I wonder how anyone can care so little about the landscape they drive through. I am wondering if the people that act like this never had a chance to sit by a campfire by a calm lake together with people they love; if they never had the chance to cook up some freshly foraged mushrooms or hear the owl while sleeping under the stars. If they had really, truly experienced connectedness with the land, would they still commit such acts of violence by dumping their toxic waste?

How can we ensure that people grow up to learn about nature and learn to value it? I personally think that this care for the land comes from being on it, not from admiring it from afar. When you wander the woods and find nourishment from the plants and berries you find within it, how can you possibly feel anything but deep gratitude from the land that provide so abundantly for you?


Because of this I feel that it is more important than ever to ensure that children grow up with access to natural spaces and that everyone feel mutually responsible for the well-being of the land.


Our lives depend on it.... truly.



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