Tips for small­hold­ers

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

Some of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that fall to all landown­ers, no mat­ter how small their plots, come un­der the ban­ner of com­mon cour­tesy. Some, how­ever, have le­gal im­pli­ca­tions.

Rights of way

The of­fi­cial gov­ern­ment guid­ance is: As the owner or oc­cu­pier of land with a pub­lic right of way across it, you must keep the route vis­i­ble and not ob­struct or en­dan­ger users. A right of way can mean a foot­path, bri­dle­way, re­stricted by­way or one open to all traf­fic. Your lo­cal au­thor­ity will be able to con­firm whether there is a right of way over your land and what cat­e­gory it is. You must leave the of­fi­cial way mark­ers in place, but you can also add your own, if the path isn’t clear.

The gov­ern­ment web­site guid­ance/pub­lic-rights-of-way-landown­erre­spon­si­bil­i­ties has full de­tails of what you can and can’t do, in­clud­ing such fine de­tail as the ex­act mea­sure­ments of paths and bound­aries. Broadly speak­ing, though, you’re not al­lowed to ob­struct a right of way with a tem­po­rary or per­ma­nent struc­ture (and that in­cludes a locked gate) and you must keep veg­e­ta­tion un­der con­trol.

Se­cur­ing live­stock

If you have any an­i­mals on your small­hold­ing, you will al­ready be keep­ing them safe from preda­tors and pass­ing chancers, for the ben­e­fit of the an­i­mals and your own peace of mind. By law, how­ever, bulls of recog­nised dairy breeds over 10 months of age must not be kept in a field that has a pub­lic right of way run­ning through it. Other breeds of that age must be in a field with cows or heifers if there is pub­lic ac­cess. If a bull is in the field, there must be a no­tice to that ef­fect.

Horses may be kept loose in fields crossed by pub­lic rights of way, as long as they are not known to be dan­ger­ous. If your small­hold­ing is on land run by an al­lot­ment so­ci­ety it may well have its own lo­cal rules in re­spect of what birds and an­i­mals may be kept in the field and un­der what con­di­tions.

Stor­ing firearms

If you want to use a shot­gun for pest con­trol, you will need to ap­ply to your lo­cal po­lice au­thor­ity. They will need to be sure that you in­tend to use and store your shot­gun safely, and will check that you plan to buy some­thing of the ap­pro­pri­ate power and cal­i­bre for your needs. If ap­proved, your firearms cer­tifi­cate will be valid for five years and you will need it to buy am­mu­ni­tion.

The po­lice will also di­rect you in safe use and stor­age of your firearm. It goes with­out say­ing, I hope, that you should never shoot over a foot­path, al­though there is no le­gal min­i­mum dis­tance in re­la­tion to shoot­ing near to a foot­path. You may shoot as close to it as is safe and sen­si­ble. Your firearms

cer­tifi­cate will de­fine the land over which you are per­mit­ted to shoot.

Car­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment

Your small­hold­ing is pro­vid­ing you with food and per­haps you de­pend on it for your liveli­hood. Even so, con­sider the ef­fects of your ac­tions on the en­vi­ron­ment and try to live in har­mony with it. If pos­si­ble, leave the odd patch here and there un­man­aged.

If you want to move or re­move a hedg­ing bound­ary, you might need per­mis­sion. Your lo­cal au­thor­ity can ad­vise you of its cri­te­ria, such as the length and im­por­tance of the hedge. If a hedge is less than 20m long and could be classed as do­mes­tic, you don’t need per­mis­sion, but it’s worth check­ing if you’re in any doubt. Some in­di­vid­ual trees might be sub­ject to a preser­va­tion or­der. Again, your lo­cal au­thor­ity will know.

Hedgerows with­out gaps are bet­ter for wildlife, such as birds, in­sects, but­ter­flies, am­phib­ians and rep­tiles, and mam­mals such as dormice and bats. You must not do any work on hedges and trees that might harm nest­ing birds or de­stroy their nests. For most species this means dur­ing the main nest­ing and breed­ing sea­son from March 1 to Au­gust 31. If prun­ing or cut­ting back any na­tive tree or plant that has nuts or berries on it, try to leave some un­cut for the wildlife.

If you sus­pect you have pro­tected species liv­ing on your land, such as bats or some rep­tiles, check with a wildlife sur­veyor – start with your lo­cal au­thor­ity – who will be able to ad­vise you on what you should and shouldn’t do. Some plants are also pro­tected, for ex­am­ple fen or­chids.

Good neigh­bours

Fi­nally, get to know your neigh­bours; re­pair shared bound­aries promptly and make sure your bad habits, such as the oc­ca­sional weed­ing lapse, don’t af­fect other peo­ple. It makes sense to keep an eye out for strangers and dam­age, and to en­cour­age your neigh­bours to let you know if they see any­thing they think needs your at­ten­tion.

You’re not al­lowed to ob­struct a right of way Know the rules about rights of way Check whether you need a firearms cer­tifi­cate

Know the rules about keep­ing a bull in a field with a pub­lic right of way run­ning through it

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