Kent Ramblers

The Tale of Albans Oast

This article is from the March 1993 issue of Kent Area News.

The Tale of Albans Oast

One day, back in 1987, Mr and Mrs Boseley bought the converted oast house at Albans Farm near Pembury.  Prior to purchase, they asked their solicitors whether there were any rights of way over the property, and were wrongly advised that there were none.

It is more often the case that solicitors do not find rights of way over land because they have not been asked to.  But to be so requested and still fail to establish their existence is incompetence indeed.  From this failure flowed several years of unpleasantness for everyone concerned and a campaign dealing with harassment and intimidation on public rights of way.

There are, in fact, two paths over the Boseleys' land; one runs past their front door, and the other through their paddock. Ann Mervin, Parish Footpath Secretary for Pembury, recalls that the first reported incident was that of a lone female walker who, in 1988, was denied access to the path and directed onto someone else's property.  During the following 18 months, local families, walking groups and lone walkers were repeatedly stopped on both paths and told that no right of way existed. Many unpleasant incidents occurred and, on occasion, threats were made and abusive language used.  Many people were deterred from using the paths.  "All these incidents were reported to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council" says Ann, "whose letters to the Boseleys were constantly ignored.  Then during the Summer of 1988, a fence was erected across the paddock path in two places.  We then had the twin problems of physical obstruction and harassment and intimidation".

The Borough Council, to their credit, took them to court in July 1989, but the case was postponed due to vital documents not being received by the court.  Two later dates were set in August and October 1989, but on neither date was the case heard.  So it was eventually in February 1990 when Mr Boseley pleaded not guilty and the case adjourned.  The final hearing did not take place until January 1991 when Mr Boseley was given a conditional discharge and 21 days to remove the obstructions.  It took him two months to comply.

But that was by no means the end of the story as Ann recalls.  "On the evening of 7th July 1989, while Mr Boseley was awaiting his court case, six girls from the 1st Pembury Ranger Company on an orienteering exercise, were prevented from using one of these paths on their way back to Pembury.  They were forced into a very dark fir wood where they were overtaken by darkness and got lost.  It was almost 11pm before they eventually got back to the village."

It was at this point that the Tunbridge Wells Group took up the whole matter of harassment and intimidation on public rights of way with the Chief Executive of the Borough Council.  KCC became involved together with the police, and what followed was described in the October 1992 newsletter.

In the meantime, Mr Boseley decided to sue his solicitors for failing to discover the rights of way over his land. So incensed was he that he refused an out of court settlement of 40,000 no less, and took them to the High Court where his case was heard last November.  He must have been startled, to say the least, when he was awarded 23,000.  In addition, he had to bear the costs which probably just about balanced his gains.

You're firedWhy the solicitors failed to discover the paths in the first place remains a mystery.  The only positive statement that could be elicited from them was that the person handling this case "has now left our employ". Perhaps that is enough said.


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