03 April 2023

Where do you draw the line? Determining boundaries on agricultural land

Wire fence and wooden fence posts

Agricultural land often presents a range of unique legal challenges to solicitors. One significant issue is determining where boundaries lie and who is responsible for maintaining them. 

One presumption regarding agricultural land boundaries is that, when a ditch and a hedge divide two property boundaries, the boundary lies on the opposite side of the ditch from the hedge.

The classic statement regarding this issue comes from Vowles v Miller (1080):

"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.”

Whilst this presumption is often relied on, it is not always the case. It can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary in title deeds and other documents. 

Once it has been established where the boundary lies, the next issue that must be addressed is who is responsible for its maintenance. This can be outlined in the title deeds or in a separate agreement. 

If there is a watercourse (including drainage ditch) running through or along the boundary of your land, you may have certain obligations as a ‘riparian owner’ such as reporting incidents to the Environment Agency and not polluting the water.

If you wish to clarify your boundary ownership or want to discuss these issues, please contact the agriculture team.  

Charlotte Boyes, Wilkin Chapman LLP
Need help?

Contact Charlotte to discuss this further.

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