The Idiot Gardener

WARNING: This site contains information on gardening, brewing, curing meat,

building shit and hunting, all done in a piss-poor manner. It is not suitable for the

feeble-minded, the weak and lame, those of a nervous disposition, vegans and

vegetarians (and those other ones that only eat fish and the occasional bacon

sandwich - I think they're called 'hypocrites'), those who practice any

manner of folk singing or dancing, people named Colin or fans of Barry Gibb.

Decisions Decisions … the Smallholding conundrum

Once upon a time there were two smallholdings. Let’s call them Smallholding A and Smallholding B. In fact, to save me typing the word Smallholding over and over again, let’s just call them A and B. Got that? Good. Let’s continue.

A and B had some similarities. Both had good points and bad points. Both were similarly priced. Both had ponds. That’s not important, but it just saves me repeating that they have ponds! Both have oil heating, shit broadband (satellite options required) and septic tanks. Both vendors also seem, in my opinion, to have genuine reasons for moving on.

On paper, I prefer A. Mrs IG prefers A. Does that make A the winner? Of course not. If it I did I’d be proudly announcing that I am the proud owner of A. Life, as they say, is not simple. Indeed, it is a steep and graggy rock which, once climbed, allows you to tumble to a painful and slow death.

A has 6.5 acres. B has 5.5 acres. In reality, for my purposes, it’s not really a significant difference. So with regard to land, there’s no real divide.

A has a very small wood. I like woods. B has a very small orchard. I like orchards. Orchard, wood, orchard wood; we could be here all day.

A is a four bedroom property in a fairly neutral style. B is a three bedroom house with old beams and a more country cottage feel. I’m not sure that I’m a country cottage sort of person. That said, I lived in South Tottenham for years, and I’m not really a South Tottenham sort of person either.

A has a metal barn, a three stable block in need of tarting up, a garage, a car port and a large work area over the latter two. It also has a tennis court. Yes, I know! B has a garage, car port, a bloody huge brick-built workshop and a fairly large kennel which could be converted into a useful building. In truth, A just edges B on outbuildings. It’s close though, real close!

A is located down a track, and is next to a working cattle farm. The road is metalled, but it’s remote. No one (except for Farmer Giles and his cows) would hear you scream. B is located on a B-Road. There are some other houses, but they’re a few fields away on either side. Someone might hear you scream, if you’re lucky/unlucky (dependent upon what’s going down).

In a nutshell, I wouldn’t be unhappy living in A or B. Either choice ticks all the boxes for me – land, rural setting, outbuildings, space for a brewery and charcuterie areas, rabbits and pigeons, etc.. That said, I prefer A as a house and as a location.

Here’s the thing, though. I have a strange feeling in my gut. No; it’s not the result of a dodgy curry or a bad pint. This is a gnawing, itchy, uncomfortable feeling of disquiet. I’ll explain why.

When we viewed A, I was surprised to see cattle in one of the fields. The vendor explained that the cattle belonged to Farmer Giles next door. He then quickly added that if I wanted to sell old Gilesy the fields he’d be more than willing to buy them from me. I explained that I wanted the fields, to which the vendor quickly replied that he was sure old Gilesy would be up for any kind of arrangement, before explaining that the current agreement was that he could use the fields for free.

My first reaction was that the situation had the potential to piss off my one neighbour, whose land pretty much surrounded mine. If he wanted to take umbrage at being refused use of my fields, he could make my life difficult. However, the more I thought about it, the more I figured that any farmer with a large-scale cattle operation wouldn’t be short of a few extra acres, and my (potential) 6.5 represented a drop in his pasture ocean. As the days passed, my negative gut feeling receded.

During a second viewing of A, I asked whether Farmer Giles actually needed use of the land. The vendor explained that he might well do, as he used to rent some other fields, but a new owner had ended the agreement. Then he said something telling. He said, ‘I don’t know whether Farmer Giles thinks I am doing him a favour letting him use my land for free, or thinks he’s doing me favour keeping the grass down’.

As we left, I spotted that Farmer Giles also had a static caravan on his land, near a barn. Once I returned to the sunny South East, I did a quick search of planning applications. The caravan was in place as a temporary accommodation for a stockman, due to a new calf rearing business. Of course, we all know that’s a step along the path of getting permission to build a property on agricultural land.  So Gilesy is playing the planning game. I don’t mind that, but I then did some further digging about A itself.

The vendor has used the land for equestrian use in the past, and has added the tennis court to the top of a field, outside of the specified garden area. Also, there is a question mark over the planning for the barn and stables.  I believe that both could be easily covered with a Certificate of Legal Development under the 10 year rule, so they’re not massive issues.

So what has brought my bad gut feeling back? It all just seems a bit too cosy for my liking. The vendor comes across as a very organised and structured person, but simply didn’t apply for change of use for the tennis court or planning consent for the barn and stables. He also hasn’t objected to any planning applications at the farm next door in the last decade.

I might be wrong. Farmer Giles might be lovely, honest and friendly. Despite that, I can’t shake the feeling that if a new face appears and doesn’t want to give Gilesy access to the land, and perish the thought even objects to new build on the fields,  then the hassle will become a bit dull. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for a bit of neighbourly disputes, but my gut keeps asking me if I can be arsed. The answer is probably no.

Decisions, decisions! No wonder I’ve started drinking!



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4 thoughts on “Decisions Decisions … the Smallholding conundrum

  1. Simon Diamond

    B B B B B! You do NOT want to get in a rural dispute with a bumpkin. I’ve seen enough Nightmare Neighbours From Hell on channel 5 to know that!

  2. Alextacy

    Give the local council a call and explain the situation, see how they feel about it and if there are going to be any issues for you. I worked in a council & this happens all the time. They will be able to advise, and get the advice in writing.

    Take a few of your awesome homebrews over to Farmer Giles and have a friendly chat with him. 5 acres is a lot of land for you to develop all at once (although idiocy lends itself to trying). Have close access to a LOT of cow shit right next door is very awesome for anyone wanting to start a horticultural operation. Find out what FG is planning to do in the short, medium & longer term. Explain what you are thinking about doing in the short, medium & longer term. A few dirty chimps and his tongue is going to be looser than an essex girl after a bottle of white lightning.
    You may find that there could be some synergies, and that he is a decent bloke who likes the idea of a neighbour that cranks out stouts darker than satan, and knows how to smoke a pig. He may be just as apprehensive as you are.
    He may also be a total prick with designs to spread his bovine empire over the 6 acres he has been eyeing off for a while. A couple of bottles of the strong stuff are going to give you a fair idea.
    If he is planning on setting up some awful caged chicken factory on his boundary with you, you want to know about it. In the absence of soviet truth serum alcohol is probably your best bet. Although you could feed him some magic mushrooms growing in all the cow shit & turn up the lights real bright & ask the heavy questions. May not bode so well for future relations. Beer is good.
    Also, which site is closer to a pub? Drinking your own booze at home is all good, but you may feel the need for companionship with other idiots, and a long trip (or drive) to the pub could be a hassle. You may even be able to get them to serve your ferments on tap if you can crank out enough (or it may be one of those unfriendly we don’t like strangers around here villages? I’m guessing not, given the tennis court & equestrian pursuits..)

    After all the waffle, a lot can be gained from having a friendly chat & a drink with people. Some of them can turn out to be completely normal & sane human beings without (many) hidden agendas.

  3. aimee

    Good relations with the neighbors is easily one of the top three (even two) most important factors in your happiness in a given locale. And poor relations with the neighbors can ruin even an otherwise perfect spot. Especially if the neighbor with whom you relate poorly is the only neighbor around. Don’t risk it.


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