The Book of Trespass: review

The Book of Trespass: review

I’ve committed trespass many times: it’s hard not to in the English countryside. As a kid, I sometimes rode my scruffy pony along the well-defined tracks of a private country estate in Hampshire. Although it caused no harm, I was trespassing. At some point on the route, a gamekeeper would usually appear in a LandRover and chase me at high speed. We’d go bucketing over ridges and through muddy puddles, barking spaniels jouncing in the back of his vehicle, until I’d bolted over the boundary. It was a kind of scary sport.  

Back then it didn’t seem odd that armed men with dogs should hunt girls off the land (all the keepers were men and they all carried shotguns). The one time a keeper actually spoke to me, as opposed to shouting threats at a distance, I was with a girl who wasn’t trespassing.

To read what happened next, and the rest of my review for the TLS of Nick Hayes’ excellent Book of Trespass, you need to go to the TLS site. It’s free to read one article a week, so you should be able to access the whole piece OK.

PS. I took the photo for this post in a private woodland some distance from the nearest right of way. Did I have a permission to be there? I’m not sure. I know the owners and they have said that I can walk anywhere on their land, but I suppose they could change their minds. My point is that none of this is clear-cut. Any examination of land access rights in England will take you back into centuries of history.

Sara Hudston

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