Who Owns England?

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Who Owns England?

Post by RIP » Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:24 am

Was going to put this in "Postie's Been" but thought I'd treat myself to a new topic.

Bit of light reading turned up: "Who Owns England?" book by Guy Shrubsole to sit next to my "Wild Camping" by Stephen Neale. Both books essential reading by wildcamping bikepackers one would think.

The related "Bikepacking" by McJannet has been relegated to the loft I'm afraid because while the "turn left, turn right" route stuff is pleasant enough once, that's about it.

Neale's info about the legalities of wildcamping is interesting and useful so I like to dip into it now and again to remind myself.

WOE (I've just typed that and realised what a superbly applicable acronym it is!) explains how we got into the state that Neale describes, and how the 1% of us/them who 'own' 50% of England keep it that way and have no intention of letting us 'take back control'.

It seems there are quite large "holes" in the land registry. Strikes me that one could favour those as bivi spots: "well I tried contacting the land'owner'". Alternatively lots of land 'owned' by Gulf sheiks etc whose phone numbers are probably quite hard to get hold of on the night as well.

I blame the Normans. A cruel twist of fate that our esteemed leader was named after them :grin:

Anyway, there you go. Ignore I mentioned it, or go and buy it, or have a good rant (*) here about the situation. Or Owen Paterson might even roll up and engage us with a description of how grouse-moor 'owners' are benevolently public-spirited and environmentally-sound custodians. It was good to read that those hedge fund managers, sheikhs and whatnot were given £10m subsidies last year to help with burning the peat moors and controlling all those rare raptors.

Anyone got any blue touchpaper handy?

(*) not even excluding Colin :smile:
Last edited by RIP on Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:44 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by ScotRoutes » Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:41 am

Andy Wightman is a Green MSP and has done similar work covering Scotland for over 20 years now. Books, a website etc (I'm a subscriber). The story is very similar. Some recent(ish) changes introduced by the Land Reform Act regarding community ownership and buyout are very, very slowly helping but it'll take decades/centuries to make things much more equitable.

In the early 70s a theatre company was set up, called 7:84. It had been calculated that 7% of the UKs inhabitants owned 84% of the wealth (much of which is the land). I'd guess that's not changed much.

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by pistonbroke » Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:45 am

I used to organise Trailquest events back in the day when entries of 2-300 were common. Given the possible impact of these numbers on remote areas namely the Moors between BB Towers and the upper Elan Valley, I used to try to inform as many landowners as possible. Also I wanted to avoid damage to locked gates, whether legally there or not, and still have a set of master keys for most of this area. I was amazed by the huge area of land owned by absentee landlords living hundreds of miles away. The usual reply from farmers was "I'm happy but it's not my call" I was met with apathy or a flat no if I tried to contact the landlords so ended up just informing the locals and not opening a can of worms. Land ownership and vested interests is one reason that trail centres were developed to corral bikers into specific areas. Bit like "Sainsbury's exists to keep the riff-raff out of Waitrose"

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by whitestone » Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:48 am

Reg, from memory (so could well be wrong) the Land Registry only have to be informed about "change of ownership" but I don't think that includes hereditary acquisition. So if a plot of land, from 10m2 to 100,000 hectares, comes up for sale then it has to go on the Land Registry. So I suppose the "holes" will fill in over time with the probable exception of MOD land and that run by the "Men in Black" :lol:

As with most things it isn't a simplistic binary situation (though that helps sell books) and while it's quite easy to highlight the "get off my land" types it's also not hard to find "no problem, don't make a mess and try and keep out of working areas" types. I'm no fan of hunting, mainly because of the the pillocks that pay to come to do it, but it does pay for part of the rural economy.

A lot of problems caused by "new" owners who view what they've bought as their personal fiefdom and don't want anyone else to enjoy it.
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by Cheeky Monkey » Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:53 am

pistonbroke wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:45 am
. Land ownership and vested interests is one reason that trail centres were developed to corral bikers into specific areas. Bit like "Sainsbury's exists to keep the riff-raff out of Waitrose"
Go on, show me your workings on that one, please.

😎

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by ScotRoutes » Mon Jun 15, 2020 11:04 am

The 7 Stanes trail centres in Scotland were developed in the aftermath of Foot and Mouth in an effort to help diversify the economy and help regenerate the area.

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by RIP » Mon Jun 15, 2020 11:06 am

" Land Registry only have to be informed about "change of ownership" but I don't think that includes hereditary acquisition" - yes I noted that from one of the reviews.

Certainly there's two sides to every argument as well, hence why I bought the book. The 'owners' have millions to promote their side so I thought I'd see what the 'other' side had to say.

The figures for economic dis/benefits seem to show the vast majority of those benefits end up in the land 'owner's pocket with a few titbits thrown over the fence for the locals. "For the 8 per cent of British land that grouse moors use, they contribute one job for every 6.5 square kilometres. In all, English and Scottish moors together contribute 0.005 per cent to Britain’s GDP. Astonishingly, they create only 0.008 per cent of its jobs", "that the average wage of the 2,500 or so people working on grouse moors was around £11,500 a year – less than the minimum wage. However, the new Government-commissioned report says that only £14.5 million is spent on wages. That’s equivalent of a lamentable £5,800 a year. If the workers are being poorly paid, the report points out that land agents estimate that each additional brace of grouse shot on an estate increases the capital value of the estate owner’s land by £5,000.".

The grouse-moor thing is a bit of a red-herring from the on-topic bikepacking land access POV but it's interesting to investigate in its own right.

Anyway, I shall read on!
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by Lazarus » Mon Jun 15, 2020 11:21 am

I'm no fan of hunting, mainly because of the the pillocks that pay to come to do it, but it does pay for part of the rural economy.
WHore houses and crack houses would help the rural economy -we live in a capitalist world so everything makes money - its not a great argument [ generally] for things as we are generally discussing morality rather can I "monetise" this- you can its capitalism
As noted its benefits are not great anyway

Scottish access laws are required - I dont know a single person walker or cyclist - who actuall obeys the actual laws and they are utterly unenforceable

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by jam bo » Mon Jun 15, 2020 11:44 am

Scottish access laws are required - I dont know a single person walker or cyclist - who actuall obeys the actual laws and they are utterly unenforceable
Even on Dartmoor where we have plenty of open access land and reasonable wild camping laws, cycling is specifically excluded from the open access.

But like you say, no one pays any heed to it.

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by Mike » Mon Jun 15, 2020 12:19 pm

A different prospective, no owns anything. We are just guardians until we die, then someone else gets it? Eg, my house is paid for by me but it aint mine really is it, coz when im dead in the ground that house will have someone else in it, no?

just a thought... so the land was always there, we came along and made our little claim on it. But i know in reality this is swollox :lol:

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by pistonbroke » Mon Jun 15, 2020 12:24 pm

Go on, show me your workings on that one, please.
I was approached by Forest Enterprise in about 1998 to look at the area around Nant Yr Arian with a view to making mountainbike trails, having run Trailquests from there for 3 years. Given the success of the Coed y Brenin trails lead by Dafydd Davis which involved the digging being done on the cheap using apprentices from Ford, funding had been allocated to do the same thing in mid Wales which was my stomping ground. I attended many meetings to flesh out the routes, hire diggers, get agreement that the plantations weren't harvested the week after the routes were opened etc. It was openly discussed that a main driver for this funding was to develop honeypot areas rather than have bikers wandering about the place making their own trails and getting in the way of harvesting. Later, in 2001, I was involved in creating the Mach 1,2 and 3 trails around Machynlleth which was less Forestry based and can assure you that very similar discussions were had with landowners, most of whom were very suspicious of letting people roam freely on their land, however as these trails were on existing ROW, they couldn't really object. We did have a bit of sabotage with waymarkers being removed and a bit of re-routing but generally there was harmony.

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by RIP » Mon Jun 15, 2020 3:44 pm

Ooh, I was trying not to get ranty but I've just re-read my ravings. EIGHT percent of all UK land is grouse moors? Eight. That's insane for what is basically factory-farming on a monoculture, the product of which is only sold in the outdoor equivalent of Fortnum & Mason, and the land is only in "productive" use for 5 months of the year. For a "densely-populated island" that doesn't sound like an optimum use of a scarce resource. And most importantly I can't bivvy on it without serious risk of getting my pants peppered. Storm the ramparts!
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by NewRetroTom » Mon Jun 15, 2020 4:09 pm

What alternative use are folks proposing for grouse moors? Most of them have sheep grazing on them already (albeit at low densities so they don't get rid of all the heather).
Surely the reason they ended up being grouse moors is because they're bugger all use for anything else?

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by Scud » Mon Jun 15, 2020 4:14 pm

Where i am in North Norfolk, it is extremely rural as you'd guess, but instead of grouse, we have loads of country estates often standing empty for pheasant shoots. On the plus side, nearly every one has a Public Right of Way across it, but can be very frustrating when young people can't afford housing, seeing an estate and its cottages either vacant or barely used. Nearest to me is owned by an Italian Viscount, no-one has ever seen him, the windows are boarded up and the 8 or 9 cottages are all closed, except the gate house and shooting ground. That and lazy gamekeepers who stick the feeders next to the road so you get pheasants all over the road (and in my daughters words "pheasants are as stupid as Trump"!)

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by Bearbonesnorm » Mon Jun 15, 2020 4:22 pm

A different prospective, no owns anything. We are just guardians until we die, then someone else gets it? Eg, my house is paid for by me but it aint mine really is it, coz when im dead in the ground that house will have someone else in it, no?

just a thought... so the land was always there, we came along and made our little claim on it. But i know in reality this is swollox
'Tis true. When we first moved here one of the local old boys mentioned how none of us own these old farms or fields, we're simply custodians and should always aim to preserve and maintain things for those who come after us.
I blame the Normans.
It's easy to blame them and their war-mongering leader Reg and while present day land ownership and rights to it can be laid at the feet of William, we could also blame the Vikings for attacking just before the Norman conquest and thus pulling the Anglo-Saxon army north. We could also blame our very own Harold Godwinson for rushing south after spanking the Vikings and entering into battle before his army had fully assembled. The missing soldiers included archers who's presence may well have produced a victory for Harold. It's true to say, the UK as we know it today would be a somewhat different place had that happened and we would potentially have greater freedoms :wink:
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by PaulB2 » Mon Jun 15, 2020 4:41 pm

NewRetroTom wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 4:09 pm
What alternative use are folks proposing for grouse moors? Most of them have sheep grazing on them already (albeit at low densities so they don't get rid of all the heather).
Surely the reason they ended up being grouse moors is because they're bugger all use for anything else?
A lot of grouse moors are *currently* bugger all use for anything else but few of them are natural, most are the result of mass deforestation, centuries of overgrazing and then turned into grouse moors when it was lucrative. I remember reading an article last year about the largest private landowner in Scotland (the majority owner of ASOS, iirc) is planning on rewilding umpteen thousand hectares of land in a multi-generational project. I'm not sure if that's linked to the projects to reintroduce wolves into the highlands too or if that's a separate project, since you'd need those to keep the red deer numbers down, allowing trees to grow.

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by Bearbonesnorm » Mon Jun 15, 2020 4:50 pm

I recall that one of the potential issues with shooting moors is land drainage. I know there's calls to fill in the drainage ditches and allow them to revert back to upland bog - something which should have a positive impact on flooding. I believe Hebden was one of the places mentioned?
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by whitestone » Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:05 pm

Grouse moors, like virtually all the UK, is an artificial environment having been modified extensively by man since the last ice age. I'm unsure what would be the natural vegetation cover, probably alder and birch scrub.

(Red) deer are an odd one - yes their natural predator is the wolf but reintroducing the wolf is just as fraught with problems as any other solution to keeping their numbers down. Depending on how much prey is around a wolf pack can have a home territory ranging from 50 to 1000 square miles. I can't think of any area in England that would be suitable for such a release.

Culling is *probably* the least worst option but whether you had estate workers doing it or got paying customers to do it is another matter.

Stu, on one or two <cough> off-route</cough> rides I've come across heather bales staked in place across channels to prevent runoff. Quite useful they were in getting across!
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by RIP » Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:22 pm

PaulB2 wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 4:41 pm
*currently* bugger all use for anything else
Aye. 2000 jobs and 0.02% of Scottish GVA from a fifth of Scotland’s land is about the least economically effective use of it, so it's almost irrelevant from the solely economic POV what else you do with it. But there are other "uses" apart from economic ones anyway. Stu's right about issues of flooding for example.

Just doing absolutely nothing and leaving it as peat and letting stuff grow wild on it has a hidden economic benefit useful to the whole planet rather than five sheikhs and a bank manager: eg. “Peatland in Scotland stores almost 25 times as much carbon as all trees and plants in the UK”. Might involve a bit of land confiscation but I seem to remember there's a precedent for that. Admittedly unfair that the UK should shoulder the burden of carbon-sinking I suppose.

Next up, just cover non-deep-peat areas with forestry so we’ll be self-sufficient in wood. Loads more jobs. Even if you just pelleted it and railed it to Drax (sorry, converted Longannet) power station instead of shipping it from the US that would be a start. Hardly a great environmental outcome but at least everyone benefits. Not keen on "wasting" wood? Stick some solar panels on it.

Obvious one: tourism! I'd pay to ride my MTB round a nice route. Let a load of trees grow, then you could build some more trail centres (arg). They'd be available every day of the year, as would the money spent in shops and B&B's etc.

People thought nothing could be done economically with the "eyesore" (not in my eyes!) of North Wales slate tips.......
,
Sorry, my original angle was the land access/'ownership' one and me not being able to harmlessly bivvy on it :smile:
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by ScotRoutes » Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:24 pm

Grouse moors should either be allowed to regenerate naturally (stop the burning) or perhaps re-planted to encourage faster regeneration. Stripping the land of natural tree cover is one of the reasons we get these massive floods.

Glen Feshie is owned by Anders Povlsen and is now part of the Cairngorms Connect project. The progress made here is fantastic, with new growth up the glen, a lack of deer fences and an insistence on culling to keep numbers down.

The wolf park idea was much further north in Alladale. it amounts to not much more than a large zoo and is unlikely to get the go ahead as it would require a large part of the Highlands to be fenced off, preventing public access (the only way in would be as a paying guest of the estate).

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by NewRetroTom » Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:18 am

Stripping the land of natural tree cover is one of the reasons we get these massive floods.
Flooding has been getting worse in the last 20+ years, and that's not due to any change in natural tree cover or digging drainage ditches (that mostly happened hundreds of years ago in the UK and has started to be reversed by grazing densities falling and ditches being left to fall into disrepair).

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/c ... and-floods
One study found that climate change has increased the risk of floods in England and Wales, such as those in Autumn 2000 (the wettest Autumn on record), by at least 20% and perhaps 90%.
December 2015 was the wettest December, and indeed any calendar month, in the UK series since 1910. Rainfall reached 2 to 4 times the average in the west and north, with severe flooding in Cumbria in particular. A recent study showed that the heavy rains associated with Storm Desmond has been made about 60% more likely due to human-induced climate change.

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by Bearbonesnorm » Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:29 am

Flooding has been getting worse in the last 20+ years, and that's not due to any change in natural tree cover or digging drainage ditches (that mostly happened hundreds of years ago in the UK and has started to be reversed by grazing densities falling and ditches being left to fall into disrepair).
True but with a change in climate we perhaps need to assess and alter what we do. The ditches on the moors might be long standing but their presence could now be having an effect they never did before?
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by faustus » Tue Jun 16, 2020 12:17 pm

It's an interesting and fraught topic. It's also one that's difficult not to be political, purely because of how land ownership currently is and how it came about. I have little respect for private ownership of large tracts of land, particularly when it is managed for an oddly singular purpose, which is often neither economically or environmentally sound. Also, nailing colours to the mast a little, it's hard to get away from the fact that land ownership - and by extension land use (as you decide what gets done if you own it!) - is often an expression of privilege and power.

It's also worth bearing in mind that the very notion of ownership (and the legal definition of private property) is relatively new. It's positives and negatives will again depend on your political outlook, but the meaning of ownership/property and the rights attached to it, are very different to what they were hundreds of years ago.

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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by ianfitz » Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:35 pm

Bearbonesnorm wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 4:50 pm
I recall that one of the potential issues with shooting moors is land drainage. I know there's calls to fill in the drainage ditches and allow them to revert back to upland bog - something which should have a positive impact on flooding. I believe Hebden was one of the places mentioned?
There’s loads of this happened on kinder and parts of bleaklow. It’s transformed the landscape up there. From denuded peat hags and groughs to being nearly all green, with a variety of plant life.

It was done in stages beginning eith blocking you the groughs and then with grass bombing! Literally clay balls full of a specific grass strain droppped out of helis. Apparently that was needed to knit the surface together. Then various other species have been introduced.
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Re: Who Owns England?

Post by RIP » Wed Jun 17, 2020 8:44 am

Ahh Kinder... which of course brings us back to the ownership aspect. The 11th Duke actually recently apologised for his grandfather's role in the mass trespass ("a shaming event in my family").

Trouble is, public ownership can lead to different problems unless access can be managed carefully. What the sheep farmers started with drainage ditches, causing drying and erosion, has been continued by ramblers and acid rain from Lancs/Chesh. I read that Kinder should really be classified as contaminated land due to such high acidity. As you say Ian, at least repairs are now underway.

Of course Kinder has special problems being a tiny area sandwiched between two or three giant conurbations. One could argue that spreading access out away from honeypots would help. So simply opening stuff up isn't a complete answer, it needs management. But that's already the case with most of the rest of the country anyway.

What intrigues me is why a mono-industry/culture needs 8% of our land just to massacre some animals. Surely only a tiny fraction is 'needed'. How about enacting a sort of 'reverse Clearances' and seeing what happens :smile: . Maybe organise a Mass Bivvy..... :wink: .
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