They lived no more than a rod cast apart since Mrs Foster purchased her 17th Century Mill in 2009, and embarked on a project to restore it – including regeneration work on its sluice gates and clearing the waterways.But when she began work, a simmering boundary dispute developed when Dr Pearson, 58, complained she was “damaging the environment by cutting down trees”.The case, concerning Mrs Foster’s rights as the owner of the mill and the fishing rights Dr Foster enjoyed, ultimately reached the High Court – where the mill’s sluice gates, helping to control water flow, became a particular “source of controversy”.Dr Pearson said keeping them open interfered with his fishing rights, and was effectively having a “dramatic effect” on water levels in one of the waterways he was allowed to cast a rod into, as well as the River Frome itself. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. For more than 75 years, a homeowner and his predecessors were able to enjoy the idyllic pastime of trout fishing from their back garden.But for psychiatrist Dr Richard Pearson, the hobby turned into a bitter dispute with his neighbour over claims his longstanding fishing rights were being breached – as he complained she was draining a waterway running through his land.The fish-rich waters of the River Frome flow by his Victorian Gothic Grade-II listed former rectory in the village of Maiden Newton, Dorset, and onto the home of his department store boss neighbour, Lillie Foster, 73. A traditional fingerpost points the wayCredit: Alamy Stock Photo The railway station at Maiden NewtonCredit:Alamy Stock Photo The waterways he claimed rights to were two artificial “leats” which formed as the river approached Mrs Foster’s mill – rights he, and previous homeowners, had apparently enjoyed since the 1930s.He claimed that, on one occasion in 2014, the water in the leat simply “disappeared” and he discovered that Mrs Foster’s sluice gate downstream had been “locked open”.A visitor to his £1.3million home – called Maiden Newton House – had commented the next day that “he was shocked by what he saw”.Solicitors’ letters began to fly and Dr Pearson said he had the right to close the gates himself, although Mrs Foster, understood to own Lilliput’s department store in Bridport, insisted that would be trespassing.She was still working on the restoration project for the mill which she said was “totally derelict and decayed”. Indeed, its wheel – installed in 1840 – and sluice gates were “in an advanced state of decomposition”.She had photographs showing that back in 2009, one of the leats was already empty of water anyway and a judge bore out her account that it was “effectively just a boggy overgrown area of land”.Dr Pearson obtained a temporary court order against Mrs Foster, forcing her to restore water levels in the leat so he could exercise his fishing rights – but the judge said Mrs Foster viewed the order as a “gross intrusion” into her private property rights.She was adamant that, preventing her from opening the gates, caused stagnation, methane gas, pondweed and flooding.Ruling on the dispute the judge said Mrs Foster had not “wilfully or maliciously” locked the gate open. He said there was also evidence that keeping the gates open for long periods “has produced a habitat that is not congenial to fish”.While Dr Pearson’s fishing rights over one of the leats were upheld, the judge said he was not entitled to cast a fly from the eastern bank of the other.There had been no “actionable interference” with his fishing rights, and he was “not entitled” to operate the sluice gates himself.Mr Justice Newey ruled that, given his findings, it was “not appropriate” to award Dr Pearson either damages, or an injunction, against Mrs Foster.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Drafting a letter to King’s management, the students write: “From a moral standpoint, we believe that geese have intrinsic value and therefore deserve a life free from suffering and human exploitation.”Geese experience pain, enjoy the benefits of a social lifestyle, and exhibit advanced intelligence in their ability to navigate vast distances on their migratory routes.”Citing Mahatma Gandhi, the students add that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”We are aware of how fortunate we are to be members of King’s and how with this membership comes the responsibility of holding each other to high standards of conduct, respect, and dignity,” they add. Although the college insists it is not planning a cull, students claim the suggestion was made during a recent board meeting. Following the backlash, management now say the birds will be “moved” if other solutions cannot be found.The row is not the first to have played out in Cambridge over Canada geese; in 2003, St John’s College was criticised by animal rights campaigners when it announced that was taking steps to “reduce the population”. One of Cambridge University’s most prestigious colleges has provoked a backlash from students amid fears that the “sentient” Canadian geese living within its grounds might be culled – because their excrement has become a safety hazard.Having settled close to King’s College on the banks of the River Cam, the gaggle has been labelled a health and safety risk by staff, who warn that their droppings have made the college pathways dangerous and unsightly.Whilst the college is using a variety of measures to deter the birds from returning – including netting over the river and laser pens – the geese have so far remained anchored to their favourite resting spot.Concerned that the birds may be killed should current efforts fail, hundreds of students have signed a petition presented to the college council urging them to protect the “sentient beings”, on the grounds that a cull would amount to “animal cruelty”. Commenting on the dispute, a King’s spokesman said: “Canada geese are a non-native species, and we have received many complaints that their growing numbers are causing the paths at the College to become slippery and unattractive.”The College has used a variety of non-harmful measures to deter the geese, and will continue to do so. If these measures prove unsuccessful we would consider moving the geese from King’s.”First brought to Britain from North America in 1665 by Charles II in a bid to increase the diversity of wildlife on show in St James’s Park, skeins of Canada geese have since spread across the country.Whilst the UK does receive a small number of migrating birds every winter, the vast majority are descendants of 17th century imports, and remain in residence all year round.However, the birds are seen by many as a pest; they have been known to produce droppings every 40 seconds, which contain many strands of bacteria that can cause serious illnesses including gastroenteritis. Whilst students acknowledge that the geese are problematic – germs in their faeces are often resistant to antibiotics and can cause serious illness- they suggest that King’s instead resorts to audio and non-toxic chemical deterrents.