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Two ponies on my land

(16 Posts)
chocolatepudding Mon 10-Jul-17 19:31:11

I would be grateful for opinions on a problem which is annoying me, particularly if anyone is a horse owner or has land they let other people use for grazing.

We own 2 fields which have been used by our farming neighbours for many years for grazing cattle and chickens. This is on a goodwill basis, no money is involved and we have no formal contract. The farm mainly grows fruit and veg and has a shop. Sometimes the farmers have had a couple of ponies grazing too but recently 2 ponies arrived that belong to someone else and no one has checked if this is OK with us.

The arrangement started 20 years ago when we bought the land and we let the farmer use 2 fields to help grow his new cattle beef business. No money is involved but he is expected to fix fences and deal with problems (eg ragwort clearance). This has not been the case and there have been times when fences have not been repaired for days - ending up with DH repairing them himself. Every summer we give up many hours to walk the fields pulling up all the ragwort - several sackfuls at a time. During the first years we were sometimes given some beef as a thank you - and to which I always was very grateful acknowledging the gift. Now the farm has passed to farmer's D and SIL who don't even give us the time of day, let alone a Christmas card.

I am feeling rather annoyed by the situation where 2 ponies are grazing on my land without my permission and the owner is paying my neighbour for this privilege. It is not the money at issue here more the fact that the farmer does not clear his cattle pooh or ragwort ( a poisonous weed for all livestock) which I expected him to do. Now the two ponies are in a 4 acre field with loads of their pooh around and no one clears up! We have cleared several sacks of ragwort because no one else is prepared to do so. I am not prepared to clear the pony pooh. The ponies' owner turns up very occasionally, does nothing and the ponies just stay in the field day in, day out. Now I have discovered she has several ponies/horses to her name and knows how to look after them. I am tempted to phone her and tell her to get off her backside and clear up the mess on my land. Or will I just make a fool of myself?

Thanks I feel better for this rant!

Nannarose Mon 10-Jul-17 19:47:51

I think you have to put this in writing, so that at least you get a peppercorn rent. I think this often happens when the original party to an informal agreement hands over.
I would, simply for ease, begin with the people who have inherited the 'permission' you originally gave. Then you can add your other concerns.
At the very least you could charge rent that enabled you to employ a poo-and-ragwort-clearer.
Unless you have an active concern (and you could ring the RSPCA for advice) I'd leave the extra pony issue until you are clear as to where you stand.
good luck!

phoenix Mon 10-Jul-17 19:57:23

chocolatepudding I am a great believer in basic good manners, and I think from what you have written, your goodwill has been taken for granted.

I think there are two issues here, namely:

1) Your neighbour is being paid, for your goodwill.

2) YOUR land is not being maintained in a proper manner.

I think that the fact that the first informal arrangement now seems to have been passed over to the next generation, needs to be addressed. Perhaps contacting them and arranging a meeting?

However, although I don't know much about the legal side of things, it might be that if they have had unrestricted use of the land for such a long period, they can claim some sort of right of usage.

Perhaps you should seek legal advice, but of course it is very sad that a "gentleman's agreement" should have to resort to this.

Good luck, and every good wish to you.

merlotgran Mon 10-Jul-17 20:03:39

I would write and ask her to move the ponies because your land is now 'horse sick' and needs to be rested.

I think you will need to be firm.

Maggiemaybe Mon 10-Jul-17 20:12:01

I would have a word with your solicitor and get them to send the letter. Yes, it is a shame that it should have come to this, but it sounds as though the new owners are even less considerate than the previous ones. Don't let them carry on taking advantage.

Oriel Mon 10-Jul-17 20:14:14

The cheek of some people! I would give them notice to leave in writing. If you feel you need to give a reason then say that you intend to rent the land and have tenants ready to move their animals in. Specify clearly the date by which they are to leave.

Good luck!

Anya Mon 10-Jul-17 20:26:32

Twenty years? I'd be very worried that your right to this land might not be easy to establish. You need to write to the farmer and state your intention of taking back control of this land and that the informal arrangement which has existed is to terminate on (name a date). Ask him to ensure that all livestock, equipment, etc is removed by that date. Send this registered delivery and make sure you track that it has been delivered.

In the meantime check your deeds to the land.

Alternately you could tell the farmer that you are willing to lease him the land and ask him to contact you to discuss terms.

Anya Mon 10-Jul-17 20:28:15

Or as Maggie suggests ask a solicitior to draft and send the letter.

Lisalou Tue 11-Jul-17 07:50:09

I would start by going to visit the current farmer and discussing it with him/her. I think that there is always time to get to the solicitor stage, first try and sort it out in a friendly manner, but also establish something in the form of a written agreement between you, as someone said, a peppercorn rent might make sense.

jusnoneed Tue 11-Jul-17 08:06:10

Citizens Advice or a Solicitor to find out exactly where you stand, and then offer a proper rental agreement if you wish to.

As your arrangement was with the original farmer and not the new users, I reckon they should at the very least have the good manners to talk to you before any use of your land.

POGS Tue 11-Jul-17 10:58:04


Very difficult one this as no doubt you have to live with each other and harmony is better than rancour any day of the week. However I would not accept the situation you have been put in for so many reasons

1). Your good nature has 'possibly' been taken advantage of.

2). I would certainly remind the farmer it is NOT his land and tell him you want the field emptied for your own use. You could charge a nominal rent but agree a time limit.

3). Are there any 'Insurance' issues if you allow others to use your fields? Are you liable for say live stock escaping, maintenance issues such as fencing, gates etc., rag wort poisoning etc.?

4) Like Anya I too would be very wary of having let him use the land for so long without a formal agreement and maybe you should look into areas such as 'Adverse Possession of Land' and ''Tennant's Rights'.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, nobody looks for trouble but sadly 'occasionally' trouble finds them and best to think about your situation all round. After all if he has sub rented your field he has shown he considers it is his to do what he wants and that could tell you something you don't want to think about.

jollyg Tue 11-Jul-17 12:08:59

The word 'pepercorn rent' comes to mind.

My Dad had a piece of land which we did not need, next door neighbour asked to use, but did not. Peppercorn rent passed hands

I remember my Dad scything the grass to give to the lady who gave [charged] us for milk.

I left home soon after.

However the 'new' owners are chancers.

Sadly a trip to the lawyers would resolve things, not cheap, as it is up to you to prove ownership.

Hope you resolve things soon>

aggie Tue 11-Jul-17 12:12:41

We had a similar problem , solicitor was helpful but we had left it too late and had to buy back the bit of land at an exorbitant price , go see about it sooner than later

PamelaJ1 Tue 11-Jul-17 12:19:38

As most responders have advised, see a solicitor. Always best to find out where you stand before starting what could be an acrimonious discussion.

Penstemmon Tue 11-Jul-17 12:27:51

Are there no deeds to the land?

chocolatepudding Tue 11-Jul-17 13:30:40

Thank you everyone for all your advice. Lots to think about and take action. Yes we have deeds to the land. The farmer cannot claim constant use of the land as he has not used the fields continuously. Local gossip says the cattle will be disposed of later this year.

Many thanks for your comments.