Boundary Disputes and the `Hedge and Ditch` rule

Commercial Property Briefing
Boundary Disputes and the ‘Hedge and Ditch’ rule
Sharman Law Solicitors
Bedford 01234 303030
Ampthill 01525 750750
In the recent case of Parmar and others v Upton [2015] the Court of Appeal considered the
application of the ‘hedge and ditch rule’ in a boundary dispute.
What is the hedge and ditch rule?
Where two properties are divided by a hedge and ditch or a bank and a ditch, there is a
presumption that the boundary sits along the far side of ditch from the hedge or bank.
This presumption will not be invalidated by evidence of possession, such as work done tending the
hedge or cleaning the ditch.
Parmar and others v Upton [2015]
The claimant (C) owned a property which included a house and agricultural land. The property
was transferred to C in 1997. A plan was used to identify C’s land, which ended at a marked
feature which appeared to be a hedge. Beyond the hedge (which was missing in parts) lay a strip
of land, and then a ditch which ran along the whole of the disputed boundary and continued
beyond C’s land. On the other side of the ditch was neighbouring property belonging to the
Defendant (D). C brought an action in trespass against D, which eventually led to a boundary
dispute.
The county court judge saw nothing sufficient to displace the presumption under the hedge and
ditch rule and resolved the boundary dispute in favour of C.
Fresh evidence was then supplied by D on appeal and the Court of Appeal considered whether D
had rebutted the presumption under the hedge and ditch rule. The fresh evidence concerned the
history of that part of the boundary which continued beyond C’s land, into land which had
previously been in common ownership. D argued that the 1997 conveyance (in which the land was
transferred to C) only conveyed the land up to the hedge line, so C had no title to sue. D also
argued that the ditch was a drainage ditch as opposed to a boundary ditch.
The Decision
The Court of Appeal dismissed D’s appeal and confirmed that there was nothing to rebut the
hedge and ditch presumptions. The layout was sufficient to permit application of the hedge and
ditch rule along the disputed boundary. There was a ditch with an adjacent hedge, even though
the hedge had largely disappeared.
The court found that a ditch did not need to be dug in order to form a boundary. On the contrary,
farmers generally dig and then maintain ditches for the economic purpose of draining farmland.
The court doubted whether the conveyancing history had any relevant effect on the disputed
boundary and the evidence was not enough to rebut the hedge and ditch presumptions.
This case is a really good example of how the hedge and ditch rule is applied. It shows that the
rule continues to serve the valuable purpose of allowing neighbouring owners of rural land to avoid
the costs and stress of having to litigate a boundary dispute. The Court of Appeal drew attention to
the excessive amount of time spent by the courts, judges and counsel on this particular dispute,
which was essentially low risk.
If you need any further information, please contact any member of our Commercial Property of
Property Dispute Team’s:
Simon Parrott at simon.parrott@sharmanlaw.co.uk
Mel Lawrence at mel.lawrence@sharmanlaw.co.uk
Phil Botterill at philip.botterill@sharmanlaw.co.uk
11th August 2015
www.sharmanlaw.co.uk