Quite a few years ago, about this time of year, The Ranger got an icily polite letter from a very well-to-do householder that adjoined a nature reserve I was managing. “I have enclosed an invoice from my gardeners for the clearance of leaves,” she wrote, “and I would be obliged if you could settle same without delay given the large number of leaves from your property which have entered my garden.”
What to do? The bill, it should be said, was for more than my monthly salary at the time. I was unfamiliar with the house in question, as it was at the very back of a huge area of woodland where little work was ever done. So I went out to inspect it. An imposing Victorian residence, set in mature gardens and plenty of them. No wonder the gardeners charged well, it must have been a week of work to sweep the leaves off that place. Sure enough, the council’s trees surrounded the place. Rather nice. In fact, looking at it, if it wasn’t for those same trees, the house would have a good view of the nearby M27. What’s more, wasn’t her garden full of trees too? A plan of action suggested itself. My reply went (roughly) as follows:
Dear Madam We accept no liability for leaves from our nature reserve entering your land. However as a gesture of goodwill we will voluntarily clear them if you will identify to us those leaves within your grounds which have come from council trees, and if you also will undertake to clear all those leaves we identify as coming from your trees which have similarly entered our land.
Funnily enough we received no reply, nor any further communication. Shame. I was quite looking forward to a day going round that grand garden arguing about each leaf.