Sunday, 30 April 2017

Nocton Hall - access to grounds

Private property - no unauthorised access

Over many years local residents have enjoyed unfettered access to the 'pleasure grounds' of Nocton Hall.  Local residents have also 'witnessed' the asset stripping of the building, before a mysterious fire took hold in 2004, accelerating its dilapidation.

Steps have been taken to improve security of the site.  The most recent being the installation of a security gate and temporary Heras fencing.  Also, the fencing is now checked and repaired on a regular basis for health & safety reasons and to deter those wishing to carry out further malicious acts.  Motion sensors have been fitted and covert cameras have been utilised to record evidence too.

The most recent action has been to erect security signs warning that this is 'Private Property - No Unauthorised Access'. If anyone is aware of any announcement from Leda Properties about retaining authorised access for local residents, please will you comment below accordingly.

Plate 1 - Access to grounds from Yew Walk
near All Saints Church

Plate 2 - Entrance of driveway to RAF Hospital

Plate 3 - Access to grounds adjacent to Nocton Hall

Plate 4 - Access to grounds near Lower Lodge

Plate 5 - Access to grounds from rear gates of All Saints Church
Right of way... possibly

Some landowners allow access over their land without dedicating a formal right of way. These are often indistinguishable from public rights of way, but are usually subject to restrictions. Such paths are often closed at least once a year, so that a permanent right of way cannot be established in law.

A right of way – sometimes called an easement – can also be created by long-time use under statute or common law.  For example, if you’ve been using a path over land owned by someone else for the past 23 years or so, then there is a good chance you have acquired a right of way, even though it hasn’t been formally registered. However, you would need to establish that you have enjoyed that right for a continuous 20-year period or 20 years up to the date any action is brought about.

This is not a clear cut issue and will depend on what has happened over a period of many years.  It would probably require the services of a legal advisor to determine the position, following provision of evidence of use.

It remains to be seen whether any action will be taken against those who choose to ignore the signs and continue to enjoy the grounds of Nocton Hall for walking their dogs and observing the local flora and fauna.


  1. Strictly speaking, anyone who is not specifically visiting one of the occupied buildings in the Hall grounds is trespassing as there is no public right of way (although those owning property in the grounds do have a right of way, as does Anglian Water). However, those not causing a nuisance are not the intended targets of the signs. The incursions into the grounds, mainly at night (although there was a major incursion during the day just before Easter) are becoming more frequent and intolerable for those who live there. Without exception, those challenged deny any knowledge that the grounds are private property. The signs give some ammunition when asking intruders to leave and that is their purpose. I am of the belief, though with no 'official' information to support this, that it is unlikely that residents of Nocton, peacefully strolling through the grounds as they do, would be challenged.

    With regard to establishing a public right of way, this has to be a clear linear route and is not a general freedom to wander in an area. Were a right of way to be established, lawful access would be confined to that route and that route only. It could therefore be counterproductive to pursue this as it could end up restricting access in a way that was never intended.

  2. Thanks for the clarification Liz. I thought that might be the case. It cannot be very nice having regular disturbances at night from unwanted 'visitors'. Let's hope the signs have the desired effect.

  3. I was gutted to see the signs on my walk today. At first, I thought they only applied to the Hall itself, but as I continued to walk through the woods, I saw they were at all entrances. We've thoroughly enjoyed walking in the woods over the last 6 years and observing the changes as the seasons progress - snowdrops being our particular favorite. We'll be so very disappointed if this is a local dog walk we have to cross off our list. What a shame that the doggies of Nocton and Dunston are missing out because of a few idiots who have nothing better to do than cause a nuisance.

  4. Thanks for your comment. I too walk my dogs through the woodland on my route out to the Nocton Estate. Long may this continue.

  5. Anyone could pursue a Definitive Map Modification Order to seek recognition of the uncontested routine access to specific routes through / across the land.

  6. Thanks for your comment. This is the formal application based on evidence that the public have used a specific route across the land without interruption for 20 years. More detailed information on the process can be found online for anyone who is interested. Regards Geoff

  7. At the end of it, the signs are up to assist in the removal of unwanted visitors. I don't believe the owners have any intention of closing footpaths/desire linesfor extended periods, however I would imagine the whole place will at some point be subject to a planning application(s). This is what will shape public access in the area, and is the point where public comment will count

  8. Wandering through the pleasure grounds of Nocton Hall today, I notice the signs featured in Plate 1 and 5 of my posting have unfortunately been removed. Two IR sensors on the fencing surrounding the Hall have disappeared too, although the mountings remain. On the positive side, a new route through the wood has appeared, joining Potterhanworth Rd to the main driveway of Nocton Hall. This is an excellent shortcut that avoids two dangerous road crossings on blind bends in the village. This enables both children/parents and anyone else to have a safe route through the pleasure grounds, to the local Primary School and All Saints Church.

  9. I do hope the free access enjoyed by law abiding local residents over many years isn't suddenly going to be restricted by this recent request for warning signs. It must be remembered that those in the community who walk the woods have acted as the ears and eyes of the owners, and have reported many of the suspicious activities that have occurred on this site. It is important not to 'throw the baby out with the bath water' with any new restrictions on access.

    The following email from Councillor Graham Jones of Nocton Parish Council may be of interest (received at 17:33 8th May):

    "Dear Geoff,
    Having recently read your blog entry regarding the new signs around Nocton Hall and the pleasure gardens etc, I was prompted to contact Nick Hardcastle at Leda Properties Ltd to clarify the point you raised regarding access by walkers etc.

    Please find below the text of both my initial enquiry and the received response.

    We may no doubt see more signs in the future.

    Graham Jones
    Cllr, Nocton Parish Council"

    "Dear Nick,
    I am now aware that the requested signs have been erected around the Hall and hospital site, thank you.

    One question which has arisen, is that of access to the 'pleasure gardens' which is and has been a regular walk for dog owners and ramblers for many years.

    Can you please clarify that the signs are intended to deter those who have been responsible for the many unauthorised incursions to the site and not for those who have enjoyed the woodland walks around the former gardens?

    The question has been raised on a local blog site and an early response would be appreciated to allay the concerns of regular users.

    Kind regards,
    Graham Jones"

    "Dear Graham

    We regard such use as a permissive right and can produce some more signs to show routes that we regard as such otherwise people will just completely ignore the private signs.


    Nick Hardcastle
    Leda Properties Ltd"


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