A unique legal right in Sweden

Swedish forestIn Sweden, any person is allowed to roam any wood, meadow, or field to pick wild Swedish berries, mushrooms or flowers for his own use. As long as you don’t cut down trees or bush, and don’t break branches or twigs, the owner of the land has no right to stop you, nor ask compensation for what you have collected. Berries and mushrooms are so abundant that there’s enough for everybody, anyway. There are a few rare species of flowers that are protected, but that’s seldom a problem: they are rare.

Before you start roaming around, there are a few, quite self-eveident, limitations that you need to know: you may not harm animals, cultivated plants or crops, and you may not enter the grounds close to houses or homes, or fenced enclosures.

This is an ancient Swedish customary law, commonly referred to as “Allemansrätten”, which can be translated to “All Men’s Right”, or maybe, in an other wording, “The Rights of All Men”. It assumes mutual respect between landowners and ramblers, and gives opportunity for anyone to pick wild fruits almost anywhere.

The law also allows you to camp, for one night only, in any forest or meadow under these rules. However, you may not camp within sight of houses, and you must ask permission to make a camp fire. And, of course, when you leave your camp site, it should be in the same condition as when you came!

Swedes find these rights and obligations quite self-evident, and are often surprised to hear that other countries don’t allow similar activities. Unfortunately, it happens every year that hikers from other countries misinterpret the law, cut down trees, make campfires and destroy the grounds. The law has also been violated in recent years by people who organize commercial picking, employing large numbers of under-paid pickers from eastern Europe, the Balkans and southeast Asia.