Published today – The Trespasser’s Companion by Nick Hayes

This is a follow-up to the same author’s Book of Trespass from 2020 – see review here – and just as I loved the first book I love this one too. Perhaps even more so.

It’s a book with attitude, and I like that. I also agree with a great deal of it, although even if I hadn’t agreed with it I would still have enjoyed the read. You shouldn’t really read a book from the back, but it is worth checking out the last chapter, A Detailed Investigation into the Moral Justification for the Exclusive Ownership of Land, almost as an introduction to the rest of the book – it’s very revealing.

This book provides a stiffener of the sinews and a summoning up of the blood for those of us who are a bit conservative and fearful of upsetting people. It’s a manifesto for upsetting quite a lot of people, and tips for how to do it really well. It is, as you will have guessed, about whether it is fair for so many people to be excluded from so much land that is owned by others. The author thinks not, and the case is brilliantly, sometimes bluntly, often wittily, and always passionately made here.

I enjoyed many of the stories, some told by others than the author. I liked hearing of a botanist who was emboldened to wander from the path for the first time ever in an area local to him and found a rare flower of which he, and I gather everyone else, was completely unaware. Not only was this interesting (well, it interested me!) but this short tale was told perfectly – just perfectly – to make several points at once.

Read this book and your pulse rate will rise but you’ll also be better informed about the law and how to be a canny trespasser – what to do and what definitely not to do. The book covers all habitats and I hadn’t really thought about aquatic trespass, but now I have. How to talk to the police, whether to light a fire, how to make a Freedom of Information request and stick-making all find a place in this book.

I was interested and pleased to see that Weekley Hall Wood (see here) was a case study.

The cover? I like the cover, and I am very keen on the illustrations right through this book, which are also by the author. However, does it tell us anything about the book or its contents except that they are likely to be stylish? Not really. I think there are a couple of illustrations within the book which would have made better covers but I do like it – I’ll give it 7/10 just because I do like it. And it is a crow and the CROW Act is relevant to some of the UK – I get that.

The Trespasser’s Companion: a field guide to reclaiming what is already ours by Nick Hayes is published by Bloomsbury.

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17 Replies to “Published today – The Trespasser’s Companion by Nick Hayes”

  1. The review set me thinking: What’s the common thread which links this book, the existence of Wild Justice, the continuing outrage about the killing of our wildlife, the clamour for rewilding and the efforts to the restore extirpated native mammals? Think back 10 or 20 years – none of these would have been thought possible. In the noughties, an article in a broadsheet newspaper about wildlife crime would be almost unheard of. Now, it’s almost weekly. There has been a sea change in our thinking, in our desire for change and in our tolerance for the lack of protection of and the abuse of our wildlife. The change is almost palpable. Books like this change minds. Change things for the better.
    I’m looking forward to reading this.

    1. I commented on the first book by this author, comments which it appears few really understood. Hey ho. But there is a story that went down in family legend that will for sure raise some hackles.

      My parents had some very close friends who had inherited (bet that word offends readers) a very small country house not open to the public except on very specific dates. One day (when not open) they spotted a family having a picnic on one of the lower lawns. Rather than scream and shout, and being mildly eccentric, he ambled down and asked if there was anything they needed. Some hot water was requested so a thermos was delivered. After much friendly chat the owner bade them farewell. The following weekend he and his wife reversed the process and had a picnic on their suburban front lawn. The owner was incandescent and told them to F off. But, said he, you enjoyed our estate last weekend.

      Trespass is very complicated, unless it is breaking and entering! Is trespass breaking and entering?

      I would no more go where I am not permitted than break into someone’s house because I wanted to watch their television. I shall enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed the last. It made me laugh.

      1. And on that basis Austringer we would have no access to Kinder Scout or most of the uplands of England and Wales.

        “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

        But in this case its only words and footsteps that are being proposed.

      2. How did the owners of the very small country house know where their uninvited guests lived? Did they drive around the suburbs until they saw that one of the houses had some lower lawns just like theirs? Your tale reminds me of the ridiculous pro-DGS ‘anti-CRoW’* argument that went – “well you wouldn’t want people tramping through your back garden, would you?”
        *ashamedly, I was myself ‘anti’ the CRoW legislation – showing solidarity of sorts with gamekeeper friends and repeating a lot of their BS while knowing full well the truth of the matter.
        Though thankfully I had more sense than to repeat that gaffe.

        1. He was a very good interrogator. And people are very free with information when being chatted to. My mother said he drove straight to the road and recognised their house by the car in the drive.
          On the matter of Kinder Scout, I believe in moderation. Some things are acceptable, others not, for example dogs off leads in sheep fields or people wandering through crops. Nobody teaches the Countryside Code anymore. If they did all this would be much easier.
          Francis Morgan: please credit your quote for reference.

      3. “one of the lower lawns”, for most of us Austringer we have A lawn if that. Trying to claim people traipsing through an estate is equivalent to/justification for the estate owner to invade the ‘traipser’s’ own garden is downright disingenuous, and frankly bloody silly – many would say pathetic, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings. For much of our history the people who slogged their guts out in factories, mines and farms creating the actual wealth used to buy and maintain estates were denied access to them for supposedly not being theirs. Perhaps you think that throwing a few crumbs in terms of occasional, limited access is sufficient for the great unwashed, but most of us have moved on from that and indeed the idiotic comparison of a multi hundred/thousand acre estate with a garden for a semi detached measuring twenty by thirty feet if you’re lucky.

  2. OK, we would all like to wander where we please particularly if we can do it in a quiet and less visited area but I feel these egotistical demands are deliberately downplaying the other side of this issue. Take an area like the New Forest as one example where unrestricted, open access to all has caused a catastrophic decline in most of the ground nesting birds. Is this what conservationists really want to sign up to?

    1. I think this is a fair point Sandra but it seems that there is room for a solution that lies between a complete free for all with the dangers you outline and the current situation where we are simply excluded from the vast majority of the land. A general right of access can in principle be caveated with the possibility to limit it in specific situations or for specific reasons such as nature conservation (e.g. ground nesting birds), crop protection, public safety and so on.

  3. I sympathise with that view, Jonathan but such compromises require public co-operation which, unfortunately, is not often forthcoming. In remote areas with low population densities problems are likely to be non existent but in the south of England it’s a different story particularly in sensitive areas.

    1. I wonder if the footpath network were better maintained and more field edges and riverbanks opened up for access, would that not relieve some of the pressures faced by the honeypots?

  4. I well remember the Thelwell cartoon of the front garden revenge picnic. Ha. ha , ha – very funny – but missing one or two points – the farmer had 500 acres, the terrace house 5 square metres. The terrace house people through their taxes were paying to support the farmer who not doubt through losses and offshore wasn’t paying any tax at all. Great wealth generally seems to generate even more greed rather than a willingness to share. Landowners organisations have done everything they can over the years to prevent others sharing their huge benefits. Yes, urban people may not know what to do in the countryside but what have landowners done to help them ?

    As for the New Forest, in the mid 1990s my Forestry Commission team suggested we should create a new New Forest closer to London to absorb the pressures that didn’t depend on the unique character of the Forest itself. There was no interest whatsoever – I don’t think most people understood what we were talking about and even if they did they’d have said ‘too difficult’. I see it – and many other access issues – as a lack of understanding, a failure to recognise that countryside access is a serious skill in itself and a lack of imagination.

  5. I shall read this with interest as somebody who before CROW regularly trespassed on various grouse moors and I’ve always ” trespassed ” on farmland but never walked through the middle of crops when doing so. I’ve been threatened, ranted at, had the garden argument tossed at me vehemently, twice as a teen had loaded shotguns pointed at me. These I generally walk where I like without problem even taking our near blind trained sheepdog with me, our local farmers know he is safe with sheep and he is terrified of cattle. There is too much countryside especially along waterways and in woodland denied us much of it to “protect” fishing and pheasant shooting.
    I am reminded of a story a friend told many moons ago, they were trespassing somewhere around the Ribble estuary and were accosted by an angry landowner. Said landowner was asked how he came to own all his land. The reply “my ancestors fought for it” at which point one of the trespassing birders took off his coat and said” In that case I’ll fight you for it now.”
    It is in a way all our heritage and provided we respect the rights and interests of others there seems to me no reason to deny us the right to enjoy that heritage.
    Going back to CROW the landowning oafs of the grouse moors of the Nidderdale AONB and YDNP were so incensed by the introduction of access under CROW that when it came in there many of them immediately used all their closure days to keep folk off. An AONB volunteer even, that same summer tried to tell I and a companion a particular moorland block was closed due to a fire risk, which it wasn’t. Keepers often tell the uninformed that access only applies to the non breeding season for birds, even now. There is a simple answer ending in off.

  6. The problem of access is a very difficult one. Some of the finest wildlife sites in the country are on MOD land where the general public pretty well never goes. Nature probably thrives best without public access. On the other hand without public engagement and interest conservation will never gain the preeminence that sport currently enjoys in the public’s consciousness.

  7. Some of the finest wildlife sites in the country are on MOD land where the general public hardly ever goes. On the whole nature thrives where people are largely absent. On the other hand without public engagement and interest nature conservation will never enjoy the preeminence currently occupied by sport in the public consciousness.

    1. Hi Julian, I agree entirely with your broader point but not all MoD owned land is as you describe. Its a mixed picture, many MoD sites have little shooting syndicates and rough shoots / clubs usually run by the Officers – a lot of game, wildfowl and so-called pest species are killed. All within the law I would say. But not only that, several of the big Ranges they have in upland areas include land leased off to very intensive DGS operations next door – with all of their usual “management” techniques going on day in day out except on live firing days.

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