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!