Boundary rules and the human factor

Do you know about the hedge and ditch principle?  It’s an ancient rule that can be a shaft of sunlight through the fog of a rural boundary dispute.

In a case in 1810, a few years before the Battle of Waterloo, Mr Justice Laurence said:  “The rule about ditching is this.  No man, making a ditch, can cut into his neighbour’s soil, but usually he cuts it to the very extremity of his own land: he is of course bound to throw the soil which he digs out, upon his own land; and often, if he likes it, he plants a hedge on top of it.”

It seems at first almost a comical idea – the judge cannot have known what any particular farmer did in the past, he was making it up.  But the Court of Appeal re-affirmed the principle in 2015 in the case of Parmar v Upton.  And, when you think about it, it is an excellent rule – simple and easy to apply, and bringing a bit of certainty to boundary questions in the country.

Having said that, it may only be a starting point.  It does not apply if the boundary was fixed after the ditch was dug.  It can also be overruled by what the title deeds say.  In the Parmar v Upton case, although the rule ultimately proved decisive, this was only after significant time and costs had been spent by the parties.

Often, the problem is not about boundaries – it is about the relationship between individuals.  Neighbours fall out, they stop talking to each other, then, when there is an issue, it escalates. 

The skill of the solicitor in a boundary dispute can be a subtle one.  Court proceedings may sometimes be necessary, but approaching the situation firmly but diplomatically can often achieve a better result for the client.   

Tees coronavirus update

We’re open and here to help you. We’re running as normal with our employees all working from home.

Find out more Show less

You can call us as normal on 0800 013 1165 or email us:

You can also find contact details for all our advisers here. 

As a flexible and technologically-adept firm, we already had many home-working systems in place. We have now rolled this technology out to all our employees working for clients, so they can continue to work normally - and from home.

If you are a client, please be assured you can get in touch with Tees and we are still working on your case. To replace face-to-face meetings, we have the facilities to do video-conferencing, conference calls or just speak on the phone, as you need.

Designed and built by Onespacemedia