Earth Under the Nails: the extraodinary return to the land

Sue Farran

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


From the permaculture of edible forest gardens to the transient floral displays of guerrilla gardeners on urban wasteland, people in England and Wales are getting back to the land in rural and urban areas, in towns and villages. Their motives for doing so are varied and diverse, ranging from the desire to establish self-sufficient networks of local food coalitions to re-establishing the lost acres of English orchards under community orchard schemes. Instead of selling the land, people want to dig it, plant it, and experience it. There are now over 1,000 community gardens, 82 school farms and over 100,000 people on waiting lists for allotments. Yet the legal framework which regulates these various projects is fragmented, poorly signposted and often absent. In some cases there are statutory protections afforded to land users and cultivators, in other cases projects seem to depend entirely on the goodwill of landowners. The language of leases, tenants, associations, permissions and consents rambles like bindweed through the websites of enthusiastic food growers, environmentalists and tree-huggers with very little specificity. There are moreover, a number of different players involved, from the National Trust to parish councils, private land owners, farmers seeking diversification, large corporations cashing in on the ‘grow your own food’ frenzy and individuals growing edible crops in municipal flowerbeds. This paper explores the present climate of going back to the land and examines the legal frameworks which are being used by the diverse projects taking place in the UK, seeking to establish whether there is any coherency in the law and whether this phenomenon prompts a reappraisal of our perceptions of land and property law.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2012
Event9th Biennial Conference on Modern Studies in Property Law - Southampton University, UK
Duration: 22 Mar 2012 → …


Conference9th Biennial Conference on Modern Studies in Property Law
Period22/03/12 → …


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