Belgian farmer accidentally moves French border

330 points9 days285
3170709 days ago

This is so ironic. There is already a movie (Rien a Declarer / Nothing to declare) whose main premise is a guy spending his nights slightly moving the border between France and Belgium: (This extract is French only unfortunately :( )

Trailer: (With English subtitles)

But, as someone who grew up less than 100 meters from this border, I'm pretty sure this stuff actually happens all over.

gumby9 days ago

I have a friend who grew up in France (well, except for her kitchen which was in Belgium); she went to school in Belgium, crossing the border (which in those days had a gate) twice each day.

I just imagine the guards opening the gate for a little girl with a school satchel. The bollards which held the gate are still there.

peterburkimsher8 days ago

I grew up on the border of France and Switzerland. My dad worked at CERN in Switzerland, was paid in Swiss francs, and had Swiss health insurance. Houses were cheaper in France, so they live in the Pays de Gex and crossed the border every day.

I was born in Switzerland. I was smuggled to France when I was a few days old so my parents could take me home. I got a passport a few months later, with a baby photo. I went to school in Switzerland, 20 minutes from the house. I had to take my passport to school, though we had a "frontalier" card that we'd show in the car windscreen so we'd rarely be stopped by border guards. It was a Schengen external border until 2007, though!

There are many stories of people getting stuck at that border for forgetting their ID, or phones connecting to the wrong transmitter causing people to get 3000 EUR phone bills for roaming data. My first kiss was on that border though, so I have quite fond memories of it!

The problem of growing up there is that I can't be Swiss - my parents weren't resident. I can't be French either - I wasn't born there. So my passport is British by descent. Children cannot be British from me, because I wasn't born in the UK. If I wanted to continue living in Geneva, children would be stateless.

That started me on a long journey of trying to find a new country. I went off to university, and proceeded to live in the UK, USA, Switzerland, Taiwan, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Austria, Netherlands, China, and India. In 2013 I decided that I wanted to move to New Zealand, but the process of moving here has been so slow (getting work experience in Taiwan, waiting 2 years for a case officer to evaluate my SMC visa, finding a new job that pays enough to satisfy Immigration), means that I only just got residency at age 31. (Children born in NZ can now be citizens, which will allow me to get married in future). Hopefully by age 36 I'll finally have a passport and a country to really call home.

peterburkimsher8 days ago

Why not marry a British girl and live in the UK?

Because I can never be truly British. 5 years from now, I hope to earn NZ nationality. Any children born overseas after that could have NZ citizenship by descent.

But a British citizen by descent has no way to "upgrade" their citizenship - not even after living there for 5 years. So I could live in the UK for 20 years, but would never be allowed to have children in Geneva. A French person has more right to become British than I do! They could naturalise, I can't. I'm officially a "second-class citizen". A citizen, not a BNO like people in Hong Kong, but without the full rights of a citizen.

seszett8 days ago

> The problem of growing up there is that I can't be Swiss - my parents weren't resident. I can't be French either - I wasn't born there. So my passport is British by descent. Children cannot be British from me, because I wasn't born in the UK. If I wanted to continue living in Geneva, children would be stateless.

If you have lived in France for the past 5 years (and still live there) you can get French citizenship. If you have obtained a diploma in a French university, you only need to have lived in France for the past 2 years.

If you have moved since then and don't live in France anymore, it might be too late though (unless you move back to France and wait 2 or 5 years).

(Also if you have siblings with French nationality, maybe if they were born in France after you were born in Switzerland, you are already technically French but have to claim your nationality).

peterburkimsher8 days ago

Moving away and moving back again is the situation of my friend Drew, who had the same situation (with US and Canadian parents, but born in Switzerland and living in France). He went to university in the UK, and returned to live in France and work in Switzerland. The processing time means that 5 years is actually 7 years or more.

My brother tried to apply for French nationality after his 18th birthday before going to university, but the application process is so slow that he wasn't interviewed until several years into his studies. The French immigration officials didn't like that he wasn't living there, so they deferred his application until he returned (and he chose not to return, but went to Australia instead). It may have also been complicated by going to the International School of Geneva in Switzerland, rather than a local French school.

I don't have any other siblings born in France, and my mum is past the age of childbearing unfortunately! My parents were able to naturalise and become French after 34 years. They applied when my dad retired, and after about 2 years they finally got it, in the midst of the political troubles of the UK leaving the EU. There was some worry about whether my parents would even be allowed to continue living in the house they spent 25 years paying off a mortgage to own. They couldn't apply earlier because CERN is an international organisation and doesn't pay French tax, so my dad was only paying French tax after his retirement.

taejo8 days ago

Don't most countries grant citizenship to children born on their territory who aren't eligible for any other citizenship? I've heard of cases where the children had a hard time proving that to be the case (the embassy of the parents' state of citizenship would neither grant citizenship nor certify non-citizenship) but I didn't realise one could be completely ineligible for any citizenship from birth in a western country.

peterburkimsher8 days ago

If they're not eligible for any other citizenship, you're right, I would be able to apply for them to have a special grant of nationality.

However, I would like me, a future wife, and potential future children to all have the right to live in the same country.

If those kids had a Swiss passport, but my visa to Switzerland got denied, I'd end up separated from them. This is happening to many British families from the area who hadn't tried to get a second EU citizenship. Also, those kids would have to do military service for Switzerland (or Austria, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore... many countries) and learn to kill foreigners. As a foreigner, there's a conflict of interest - I'd rather not have children be forced to kill me.

nitendoraku8 days ago

Presumably if you didn't achieve residency elsewhere any potential wife would have some status which could be passed onto the kids?

peterburkimsher8 days ago

Not if she's in the same situation, like most classmates and other Geneva people.

What if my temporary work visa gets denied? If I had a family, I could end up unemployed, deported, and separated from wife and kids. Those kids would grow up without a father around, increasing their chances of divorce. It would be disastrous.

Would I rather choose a wife based on her nationality, or go through the long, gruelling process of trying to earn it? My girlfriend is from Taiwan, and despite its many flaws, the Immigration system is really my only hope for getting the prerequisites to start a family.

gumby8 days ago

In some countries nationality status can only be passed through paternity, not maternity.

There might still be some countries that require that a child be born physically within the country as well, though I don’t track it.

tdhttt8 days ago

Interesting story! During my short stay at CERN, I lived in an apartment in Pays de Gex as well. Cycling across the border twice a day is fun! (The border is not very bike-friendly though)

Wolfenstein98k8 days ago

Wonderful story, thanks for sharing!!

Good luck finding your home.

I am Australian and can recommend Australia wholeheartedly, although I know we make immigration thoroughly difficult.

peterburkimsher8 days ago

My girlfriend went to Australia on Working Holiday for 2 years, and enjoyed it a lot. Personally I didn't like needing to have a Resident Return Visa, or losing PR after living overseas. So I preferred New Zealand, and now I'm working at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, I feel quite settled here for the foreseeable future. I'll definitely come to visit though!

hunter-28 days ago

Such a fascinating story! Thank you

starik369 days ago

> bollards

I've never heard that word till I started playing GeoGuessr.

notJim9 days ago

They even have a fan account on twitter

caf9 days ago

It's common enough here that's it's a been verbed: A car is "bollarded" if a silly driver tries to tailgate another car into a secure area, causing the bollard to rise under their car which typically destroys the sump.

x09 days ago

Really? I had no idea that was an uncommon word. What else do you call them?

rtkwe9 days ago

Until I learned the word bollard I just didn't have a name for them that I know of, probably called them posts if I ever referred to them directly. I knew what they were for, separating/stopping cars, just didn't know what they were called.

esrauch9 days ago

So I recognize the world bollard but I definitely wouldn't have been able to think of it off hand. I feel like its just not an entity that needs referring to very often.

HWR_149 days ago

If crossing the border became sufficiently difficult, I guess they could have installed a back/side door in the kitchen.

secfirstmd8 days ago

There are farms in Ireland on both sides of the border. Imagine kicking your GAA ball over to the other side of the garden and you switch countries. A smugglers paradise over the last 100 years.

HWR_148 days ago

What's a GAA ball?

baruchel8 days ago

I think remembering something like that in Hannah Arendt's biography, but I couldn't tell more... Maybe something about leaving Germany by leaving an house through such a door in the opposite side.

elliekelly9 days ago

Have you considered moving them a few meters into France? Maybe your friend can squeeze in a Belgian living room, too.

gumby9 days ago

These are serious bollards, and I think she'd rather move them into Belgium.

Hmm, her husband is Belgian, if moving is involved you're right: he might want them to head into France.

Perhaps they could each move one of them!

nucleardog9 days ago

Sounds like the setup for some wacky sitcom hijinks.

Marc is from Belgium, Emma is from France. When it came time to decide where to live, they couldn't come to an agreement so compromised and live on the border. But what they didn't know is that neither of them ever truly gave up the fight. Tune in for their late night heists and hijinks as they try to move into their preferred country... by moving the border! Fridays at 8pm on the WEB.

dkarl9 days ago

What if they find the midpoint of the bollards and rotate them around this point 18º clockwise every night for ten nights?

8ytecoder9 days ago

One of the most complex borders with hundreds of enclaves and people living there with no clear idea on which country they belong to used to be the India-Bangladesh border.

aasasd9 days ago

Belgium has such a place of its own:

However India-Bangladesh has enclaves of a higher nesting order.

baybal29 days ago

Allegedly it's because local rulers were playing carrom, and were betting villages.

Once Britishers came, Bengal was separated from the rest of India along their borders of their territories.

gwright9 days ago

This is another interesting one. A part of Russia that sits on the Baltic Sea disconnected from Russia proper:

lizknope9 days ago

That was basically East Prussia and they forcibly removed the Germans.

blahedo9 days ago

And the city of Kaliningrad might be more familiar in this crowd under its old (Prussian) name of Königsberg (as in "Bridges of").

jacquesm9 days ago

One day that will cause a major geopolitical headache. And now every time I move around in that area it causes me a huge detour. Oh, and I ended up accidentally at the Belarussian border one day (note to self: update your satnav).

mey9 days ago
simondotau9 days ago

I don’t even have to click the link to know that it’s that episode of Map Men.

athenot9 days ago

Wow this is crazy. But at the same time, it could be an interesting solution for other disputed borders around the world. Leaders are often obsessed with drawing a clean line between 2 areas but reality is a lot more messy and nuanced.

ad404b8a372f2b99 days ago

Aaah I was going to post that :D! It stars one of my favorite comedic actors, Benoît Poelvoorde who is belgian. I'd encourage anyone with a taste for foreign films to check out "C'est arrivé près de chez vous" (Man Bites Dog in english) another great movie of his (features lots of violence and serious themes, not a family movie).

smnrchrds9 days ago

> Benoît Poelvoorde

It looks like a very French first name and a very Dutch last name. Is that common in Belgium? Is there a significant overlap between the linguistic communities of Belgium?

markvdb9 days ago

I initially started writing half an encyclopedia here, but I scrapped that. Some random bits:

- There's rather limited contact between the linguistic communities of Belgium.

- Knowledge of nl is generally extremely limited in Wallonia. I have a feeling it's improving a bit, even if nl is not obligatory in education there.

- Knowledge of fr is clearly worsening with the youngest generation in Flanders, even if fr is obligatory in education there.

- Mixed nl/fr work environments used to be fr.

- Friends from outside Belgium often tell me they notice absurd humor as a common trait.

- Lots of interesting things to say about language community history too. Long story short, the language border hardly moved the last few hundred years, except for Brussels turning majority nl-> fr in the last ~100 years [0].

- Did you know Belgium has large ar, ber, de (official language!), it, ku, ln and tr communities too?


P.S. If you like Poelvoorde, watch .

ghaff9 days ago

In a prior life (i.e. 25 years or so ago), I was in Brussels for a work event where there were various speeches. The way it worked is that you either spoke English or you spoke alternating French/Flemish.

smnrchrds9 days ago

Thank you for this information. What are ber, ln, and ku?

azalemeth9 days ago

I have a very good friend from Flanders. His partner is from wallonia. He told me that the word 'poopen' is nl slang in one community for 'to have sex with' and 'to defecate' in the other. This caused much hilarity.

Bayart9 days ago

Save for a few adjustments, the linguistic border in that region has been basically fixed since the 8th c. Unsurprisingly enough, a lot of the work of the dynamics of the Romance-Germanic linguistic border comes from Belgium.

vanderZwan9 days ago

> Friends from outside Belgium often tell me they notice absurd humor as a common trait.

Explains why you had some of the best surrealists back in the day

TacticalCoder9 days ago

> Is that common in Belgium?

Jean-Claude Van Varenberg (the real name of Jean-Claude Van Damme). It is incredibly common. I've got many several french speaking belgian friends, with a french name but a dutch family name.

> Is there a significant overlap between the linguistic communities of Belgium?

I would say not anywhere near what the name / family names may suggest. The north/south separation in Belgium is quite clear and although mixed french/flemish couples are by not means rare, I'd say the overlap is still not huge. Even in Brussels native flemish speaking people are only 6% of the population.

hinkley9 days ago

Sometimes it’s collectively referred to as Benelux, so a name that would fit in the Netherlands does not surprise me.

It does throw me when some documentary interviews a Frenchman with a very German last name. Until I find out he lives in Alsace. That area traded hands so many times. There are some French names on the other side of the border too, I’m told.

And isn’t “Austria” just a mistranslation of the German for “The outer lands”? But we don’t talk about that any more. Not since The War.

karatinversion9 days ago

"Eastern realm", actually. Wikipedia has some details -

csunbird9 days ago

Österreich - The Eastern Empire (my limited german)

Ost - East

Öster - To the east, easter - relative to something

Reich - Empire

jaeh9 days ago

During the second world war, Austria was called "Ostmark", not österreich.

And yes, "we do not talk about that" since the war ended, the Myth that we were the "First Victim of the Nazis" still perpetuates, at least in the Generation of my Grandmother (who is 94).

The only austrian resistance when the nazis entered in 1938 was a Group of International Brigades that had returned from the spanish Civil War and they all got slaughtered. You likely will not find that in a lot of history books either, somehow the ~80.000 international Volunteers of the Civil War in Spain are rarely mentioned anywhere.

No Pasaran!

jfengel9 days ago

I think you're mixing it up with Ukraine, which can be translated as "border land".

ddnb9 days ago

Yes there is, another example: Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe is a Walloon politician, Geert Bourgeois is a Flemish one.

lovemenot9 days ago

Let's not forget Benoit Mandelbrot, who may have discovered fractals while staring at a map of the Belgian border.

zinclozenge9 days ago

It's kind of a meme in Belgium that flemish people have french last names and walloons have dutch last names.

Mvandenbergh9 days ago

Yes, specifically it's more common that way around than the other due to the large influx of Flemish workers who moved to the coal and iron regions in Wallonia during the industrial revolution.

Most people with FR first name and Dutch last name are Walloons who probably do not speak Flemish.

vimy9 days ago

When Flanders was poor a lot of Flemings moved to Wallonia, at the time it was the wealthy part of Belgium, to find work. They stayed and their kids grew up learning French and then their kids did as well, only their last names reminding them of where their ancestors came from.

sjrd9 days ago

Those combinations are indeed quite common in Belgium. Another example: myself :-p (Sébastien Doeraene).

smnrchrds9 days ago

If I may ask, what is the story behind your name? For example, is one of your parents francophone and the other one Dutch? Do you speak both languages natively?

Bayart9 days ago

A lot of Flemish folks migrated to French speaking areas back in the days because of the mines. Belgian mines powered the industrial revolution, which explains a lot of the British involvement and Belgium's historically awkward international status.

gillesjacobs9 days ago

There's a significant overlap in naming and there's a lot of professional language contact. But culturally and politically, the linguistic communities are divided.

NicoJuicy9 days ago

A lot of people in the north of france spoke Dutch/were Belgian.

Some old people in french speaking still speak dialect dutch. Not the "new" generation.

French Flanders:

Additionally, Wallonië is also french speaking and not dutch.

So my guess is that it's pretty common ;)

cinntaile9 days ago

It depends on what you mean. There is no significant linguistic overlap. There are some exceptions such as if you live near the language border. But last names ending up in the other side of the country is not that uncommon, people move around and some end up getting kids there.

agumonkey9 days ago

talking about dutch-belgian-french, I recently got into Dick Annegarn

His first album "Sacre Geranium" is a strange kind of masterpiece. Naive, comical, poetic, and strangely complex musically at the same time (all that mostly as a solo acoustic guitar voice act)

jacquesm9 days ago

That's also common in the Netherlands and even Germany. French first names are simply popular all throughout Europe (ditto Italian and English names).

csours9 days ago

Maybe I was the only one confused but "C'est arrivé près de chez vous" means 'It Happened Near Your Home'. The movie was released in English as "Man Bites Dog"

gryn9 days ago

it's very common to give unrelated titles to films when translating them, for some reason.

some times the 'local' title for films that are in English get another unrelated English title.

gerdesj9 days ago is a fictitious newspaper headline. However I'm pretty sure I've seen it used, tongue in cheek.

aasasd9 days ago

Searching the web immediately turns up:

> Man Bites Dog is an intensely disturbing movie that, despite having frequent moments of dark humor, is shockingly violent and very difficult to watch.

With 74% on RT, which is pretty good. I already have conflicting emotions from this. The descriptions evoke the spirit of Bret Easton Ellis' stuff.

What I've seen of French film violence tends to be cinematic in an off-putting way, but perhaps that's only post-2000s explosion of movie tricks.

ad404b8a372f2b99 days ago

The quote is overstating it IMO. Maybe for its time it was shocking but if you compare it to game of thrones for example, which has rape scenes, torture and murder it's nothing to write home about in its depiction of those.

I watched it as a teen with my family and it didn't shock me in the least. It's serious but not traumatizing.

dudul9 days ago

I actually think it is easier to watch as a teen 5han an adult. I watched it a lot with my buddies when I was younger, it was one of our cult movies.

Today, as an adult and a dad I dont know if I could watch the kid murder scene.

shirleyquirk9 days ago

Man bites dog is amazing, a noir mockumentary american psycho.

aasasd9 days ago

Ellis' ‘Glamorama’ actually has a film crew following the protagonist. However that book is difficult to comprehend (sorta in the 70s/80s transgression-surrealism way), so I'm still not sure what the crew actually does, if anything.

speedgoose9 days ago

Wikipedia says that they removed the woman rape and the kid murder scenes on the American version, 30 years ago. I don't know if people would appreciate such a movie today.

capableweb9 days ago

> I don't know if people would appreciate such a movie today

I'm fairly certain most people outside of the north-american-cancel bubble know how to separate fantasy from reality, so while maybe hard to watch, there won't be any uproar.

Edit: judging by the downvotes, HN is not outside that bubble, my mistake

sellyme9 days ago

Alternatively perhaps people on HN are simply aware that the most popular TV show in the last decade was a fantasy show with similar themes produced in North America, which renders your criticism somewhat nonsensical.

ad404b8a372f2b99 days ago

Game Of Thrones has rape, child murder, and torture. I think it'd do fine in that respect.

speedgoose9 days ago

True. It doesn't feel the same though. Maybe because it's a fake documentary where the filming crew participates in the rape / murders.

cinntaile9 days ago

Not everyone prefers to watch mainstream movies. This movie was never mainstream and themes like this haven't faded out or anything.

orwin9 days ago

It was honestly both disturbing and funny. Nowadays, it is just funny, since everybody have seen worse in their favorite tv show.

NicoJuicy9 days ago

Just by curiosity, i grew up in Alveringem ( Belgium, about 30 minutes from Dunkerque. Next to the French border) and still regularly go to Hondschote ( water :p ).

Where did you grew up and are you still regularly there?

Ps. If it's near, here's something unique about the neighborhood:

3170709 days ago

I grew up in Warneton/Waasten, but I live in London these days.

yumraj9 days ago

Thanks for sharing, the trailer and the clip before were very funny, saying as someone who probably knows just 2-3 words of French.

Will have to see if it is streaming somewhere..

aetherspawn9 days ago

A neighbor once moved the pegs marking our block a few meters so that he could move (and claim) the neutral strip. The most irritating thing, is that he more or less got away with it because he was old and persistent. In fact, he gradually built infrastructure on it, despite hundreds of complaints to the local council and authorities. In the end the council couldn't come up with a good way to settle the dispute, so they offered to auction the neutral strip and its contents between us to the highest bidder.

jerf9 days ago

From what I've seen of several such issues in the US, this is not legal advice, but if it ever happens to you, you are well advised to A: hire out a surveyer or do whatever it takes to be absolutely sure you are correct before proceeding down this list B: issue notice to all the correct locations (to the violator and the relevant boards in charge of the lines) and then C: after a suitable, but not too long period of time, take concrete action to remove the offending things. Hire a lawyer somewhere in the mix to be sure you're not violating any other local laws. (I especially don't know what you should do with the "offending things", e.g., can you take them yourself? Do you have to throw them back on the property line side? What if this involves a certain amount of demolition? I don't know.)

I've seen a number of people in my extended social circles do varying combinations of A and B, but still eventually losing because of a failure to do C, because they don't want to be confrontational or whatever.

(I am specifying "in the US" because I'm fairly sure this is related to common law. Countries operating under other traditions may not see this effect. However in common law, there's a certain element of having to be able to "defend" your property in order for it to be yours.)

jeffbee9 days ago

I'm not sure what the "neutral strip" means, but if it's something like the sidewalk in front of a house, then the relevant US law would be that public property cannot be acquired through adverse possession, no matter how persistent the trespasser may be.

aetherspawn9 days ago

In this case it was a council-owned dirt road between two unfenced properties. By moving his property onto the road and erecting a pergola on the road, the path of the road moved onto our property, which he then claimed was the true location of the road. Then he pulled up fruit trees that were planted at the front of our property (for privacy) because now it seemed like they were planted on the strip, which is supposed to be empty. In truth, those fruit trees made it obvious that he had moved the road and that's why he wanted to pull them up.

The 'neutral strip' that they auctioned off, was actually the very tippy end of the road (which they can do, unless it hinders someones driveway access), and we lost access to our second driveway, which is entirely illegal except there's a whole bunch of legal nonsense you have to submit to keep a driveway valid after it becomes blocked for a certain period of time, otherwise the driveway is automatically considered cancelled (in this case, his pergola blocked it for long enough that you need a new driveway permit if you can believe it). A new driveway permit can not be approved if the driveway can not be accessed, and so the fun begins. To make the driveway valid, and hence the sale of the land under the pergola illegal, they made it seem like we needed to forfeit the strip to general access...

I'm not even being sarcastic when I say that surveying property borders, roads and driveways seems like a perfect application for an immutable and easily auditable blockchain based on lat/lon.

yosito9 days ago

I've heard many stories of property lines being moved simply by people moving a fence, mowing the grass, or building a structure. If no one has said anything in several years (exactly how many varies by jurisdiction, of course), the assumed property line can often become the legal property line.

mrweasel9 days ago

That happened constantly in the Danish country side when I grew up. My dad and grandfather had to check up on one neighbor in particular pretty frequently, otherwise he grab half a meter of our field every other year or so.

Despite not having lived on the farm for 25 year my mom and dad are often brought out to help settle dispute regarding property lines.

Technically everything is mapped out and moving a post or plowing a wrong part of the field doesn’t change ownership, but some of the maps are old and reference point are no longer where they once where.

R0b0t19 days ago

In a lot of areas in the US (but not all) a period of notice is necessary. This precludes events where a neighbor steals property from another surreptitiously. In some cases if the land is "abandoned" you need to make the person who owns it aware of it, in others it is presumed if someone does not visit their land for 7 years they have no interest in it.

(This is getting complicated and challenged due to the fact suburbs are popping up nearly everywhere and totally useless land may now be worth money.)

In the case above simply demolish whatever the guy built. He tries to sue in civil court and fails because he had no right to build there.

asdff9 days ago

That wouldn't happen if you hired a surveyor. They don't go off of fences or grass, they go off of what plat map and the record in the planning office at city hall says about your deed. Banks and lenders might actually require another survey to happen before a home is purchased.

mschuster919 days ago

> In the end the council couldn't come up with a good way to settle the dispute, so they offered to auction the neutral strip and its contents between us to the highest bidder.

Here in Germany, he would be issued a demolition order by the court that, in case of non-compliance, will be enforced even with armed police if deemed necessary. On top of that the affected party can sue him for damages.

mnw21cam9 days ago

In a lot of cases, the affected party is the local council (government) which often doesn't care (or doesn't have enough free time to care).

wil4219 days ago

Sounds like the US. The Sheriff would come if the court issued an order. In my county you can get the survey if it has been done on the property. It’s public records and details the property markers they found.

oblio9 days ago

They don't really enforce it much in Romania, but when they do, same. I've seen stuff get bulldozed down.

heavenlyblue9 days ago

Unfortunately people usually know how the enforcement happens in their countries and happily take advantage of the disfunctional authorities.

macjohnmcc9 days ago

My father's uncle kept moving the fence between our property and his so he could drive to the back of his own property. This was an ongoing thing. I think eventually my father just gave up and let him have the strip. Now neither property is in the hands of family and no one will know unless a survey is done in the future.

Turing_Machine9 days ago

In at least some jurisdictions, allowing someone to do this over a period of years can create an easement that has ongoing legal effect. You don't lose title to the land, but neither are you allowed to prohibit the neighbor from traveling over it.

fogihujy8 days ago

I'm in a similar situation with the local road council who are trying to move a road onto our land so that people can keep higher speeds in a specific corner. It's a very good idea to have documentarion for where the markers are once a neighbor is hell-bent on driving a bit faster with his tractor.

asdff9 days ago

In some states this is how you can legally claim land by occupying it, although usually you need to pay taxes on it. Where my parents live if there is an abandoned lot between two homes, the owners can split it for one dollar paid to the city a piece and add it to their parcels, or one person could claim the whole thing if the other neighbor stands down. Property laws are very weird and there are some old school ordinances on the books that date back hundreds of years.

mytailorisrich9 days ago

Trespass is usually a civil matter and councils only deal with planning issues (at least here in the UK so I imagine also in Australia). So even if the land was the council's they could not do more than involving lawyers and going to court. They might have rightly concluded that it was not worth it for them to spend money on an useless piece of land and decided to sold it instead since there was obviously demand for it.

tinus_hn9 days ago

This all goes well just until it goes horribly wrong and you’re forced to demolish everything you built.

lb1lf9 days ago

...or you encounter a bit of chainsaw diplomacy: (link in Norwegian, but the photos are quite telling.)

sundvor9 days ago

Wow, rather than exercise a bit of flexibility some people truly have their sense of entitlement stuck in overdrive.

The guy who did this also rubbished 70 year old stone fence - erected a generation before he was born, and ended up in jail after a number of court cases. Talk about pissing your life away because of misplaced anger.

yrgulation9 days ago

I cant' help but rejoice that europe's borders (at least within the eu) are a mere stone. Not too long ago moving that stone might have led to war, now it leads to jokes.

berkes9 days ago

A related story is the border between Belgium and the Netherlands that was recently moved[1].

Not because some war was imminent, but because of very practical reasons: Belgian police could only reach that piece of Belgium by boat; so "exchanging it with NL" was the easiest, because the Dutch police could just drive there.

It makes me happy to see that we're down to "practical exchanges of land" from centuries of war over the most silly pole, church or "slight".

[1] Dutch only, sorry.

FabHK9 days ago

Or the Whisky War over Hans Island, which the Canadians claim and leave a bottle of (Canadian) whisky, upon which the Danish claim it and leave a bottle of (Danish) snaps, ad infinitum.

tonfa9 days ago

It's pretty significant right? Island typically procure claims over a large surrounding area, and there's quite a bit of resources in the arctic.

capableweb8 days ago

I think FabHK is referring to not the strategic advantage of "owning" that island but rather how that border-conflict is managed. Instead of stationing soldiers who shoot on sight, they manage the conflict by exchanging liquor.

jacquesm9 days ago

I can see a business in there somewhere.

sangnoir9 days ago

What are the logistics regarding nationality and property within the exchanged land? Are the inhabitants now dutch, or Belgians who now own Dutch property?

garmaine9 days ago

I don’t know about this case, but typically this is uninhabited, unimproved land that is exchanged.

the-dude9 days ago

Dutchie here, FTA :

> wordt geklaagd over drugsoverlast, afval en naaktloperij

So the actual problems are complaints about drug users, illegal trash dumping and nudism. And the negotiations only took 5 years.

sangnoir9 days ago

I had assumed that the land was occupied because the motivation for the exchange mentioned in the article are reports of crime (nudity, drugs) that Belgian police can't easily attend to. It is likely the suspects were visitors to the area.

ilamont9 days ago

If you want to see a messed-up peaceful border situation, there is a Mohawk community straddling the U.S./Canadian border with the actual line going through NY State, Ontario, Quebec, Cornwall Island, and the St. Lawrence River. The convoluted rules inhabitants have to follow to see relatives, go to school, get medical care and conduct daily business are extreme.

koheripbal9 days ago

They actually have fewer regulations and can usually cross the boarder very easily.

It's one of the reasons that the area is extremely popular for smuggling.

ilamont9 days ago

Vince Thompson is one of about 2,000 Mohawks who lives there. He's also represents the Island as a chief on the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. Just to take his daughter to a dentist appointment and go to some meetings, he says, he has to go back and forth through U.S. and Canadian customs, waiting in line and answering intrusive questions each time. "I’m going home. I gotta report in. Then I gotta race back home, pick up my daughter, then report back in, then proceed to the dental or medical appointments," Thompson shakes his head. "It’s unbelievable."

koheripbal9 days ago

While I'm sure that's true - it is still a very popular smuggling area exactly because the border patrol is very thin.

caf9 days ago

So it seems like the worst outcome has been achieved then - overbearing bureaucracy for locals engaged in their legitimate business, and a relatively free hand for smugglers moving things across the border illegitimately?

frenchy9 days ago

Would it be better just to solve that by putting up stops on both sides of the reserve's border?

Turing_Machine9 days ago

Right. I believe that is the place where the American side was (on paper) consuming hundreds or thousands of times the normal rate of Canadian cigarettes.

What was happening was that the cigarettes were being sold as export items (so little/no Canadian tax paid), exported to the American side, then smuggled back into Canada via the Canadian side.

purple_ferret9 days ago

The interesting implication here is the stone seems to mark the 'official' border and the nobody but the farmer can move it back without engaging in some sort of bureaucratic process.

If it is in, presumably, French territory now, why can't some French resident roll it back?

vidarh9 days ago

I'd be more inclined to assume it's just that nobody wants the hassle, and so it's easier to just insist it's up to the farmer.

mytailorisrich9 days ago

Yeah, I read this as "just put it back where it was and we'll all forget it ever happened".

Arnavion9 days ago

Also, they probably want to make sure the farmer knows that it's not supposed to be moved, so that he doesn't just move it again.

_the_inflator9 days ago

This is funny.

Even funnier are the so-called line houses along the USA/Canada border:

smnrchrds9 days ago

The US-Canada border situation is more sad than funny in the post-9/11 world. I wish the borders were open between US and Canada as they are in Europe. But crossing the border, even though it is barely marked, is a serious crime and heavily enforced.

dmurdoch9 days ago

This is only true in certain places. For example, in the thousand islands, the border between US and Canada is VERY nebulous. A line on a map exists, but you can drive your boat around the islands, entering and exiting the US dozens of times, and absolutely nothing will happen to you. The US Coast Guard is there boating around watching, but only rarely pokes around peoples boats.

Now I'm sure if you landed and somehow were talked to by the border police and didn't have a passport you'd be pretty screwed, but honestly thats pretty unlikely to happen. I know an old couple set in their ways who to this day just boat across the river sans passport for a favourite restaurant.

walrus019 days ago

Not only that, but due to limitations in 19th century surveying technology, the actual 49th parallel as measured by a high precision GPS+GLONASS+Galileo receiver is some dozens of meters different from where the practically enforced line is (such as zero avenue and its ditch in South Surrey/Langley, British Columbia where it meets Whatcom County, WA).

If you go here and search for "B street, Blaine WA" and right click in google maps, look at the latitude, the actual 49th parallel is considerably south of what is enforced in practice. Much of Blaine, and a very long strip all the way to the great lakes, is actually in Canada...,+Blaine,+WA+98230,+US...

xxpor9 days ago

Also fun: the border between the NWT and Yukon has never been surveyed, so no ones really sure exactly where it is.

iggldiggl9 days ago

I also found this (online) exhibition documenting the whole USA/Canada border rather interesting:

Although from a European perspective, the post 9/11-state of that border also seems somewhat depressing…

csunbird9 days ago

> A local history enthusiast was walking in the forest when he noticed the stone marking the boundary between the two countries had moved 2.29m (7.5ft).

How do you even measure that effectively? Aren’t the stones more than hundreds of meters away from each other?

edit: for example, can I do that as well with minimal equipment (e.g. with just a phone)?

teachingassist9 days ago

I'd guess this has got this level of accuracy via back-and-forth mis-translation. "A good 2 metres" (as Flemish news is quoting) became "7.5ft" became "2.29m"

Or, if you can identify where a stone has been moved from and to, you can use the pre-installed iOS app 'Measure', which always gives you a number to the nearest cm over this distance.

throwaway0a5e9 days ago


The border was likely digitized a decade or two ago. Someone noticed the stone didn't match the database.

foobarian9 days ago

"One does not simply use GPS to mark a spot..."

I tried this at home and it turns out that easily available GPS devices have huge amounts of error, especially without unobstructed line of sight like in woods. I left a phone on a stump recording a walking trail, and it wandered around multiple tens of meters. There is value in what the surveyors do :) Although I guess they would use markers like this as references, so unless they crosscheck with multiple markers and fancy GPS they could make mistakes too.

Edit: and the whole while the GPS receiver is reporting a misleading "5ft" or similar accuracy.

capableweb9 days ago

I'm unsure where in the world you are, but accuracy depends on the satellite you're receiving data from. Commercial GPS satellites (or rather the stream you receive) also have better precision than normal "consumer" ones, and one could assume military has the most accurate ones. The new Galileo (Europe) system has a accuracy down to 1 meter, while GLONASS (Russia) has something like 3 meters. The commercial accuracy of Galileo is down to 1 cm though.

vbezhenar9 days ago

How commercial and normal are differentiated? Is it possible to crack it and use in your own GPS device?

Twixes9 days ago

Is Galileo online?

incompatible9 days ago

There's also the problem that the land itself is often moving, relative to the GPS coordinates, via continental drift. Over decades, or after a large earthquake, it can add up to metres.

kumarvvr9 days ago

GPS is used in building bridges and marking spots accurate to withing a few cm.

But for that you need specialized equipment.

BitwiseFool9 days ago

I also feel like the "real" border is a line in a GIS database. Sure, the stone is supposed to be the border based on a 19th century treaty but we all know a 21st century government is not going to actually treat the stone's placement as the official border.

bellyfullofbac9 days ago

If the stone is the legal marker, take it on a plane to China, mess up all the nice polygons...

sellyme9 days ago

I don't think China would take too kindly to Belgium invading them, but maybe they'll be so confused that it will work.

stereo9 days ago

The real border is in the treaty. They describe geographical features that have sometimes moved ("the river x"), don't exist anymore ("the big oak tree") or take a lot of time to rediscover ("the field belonging to the widow soandso").

The stone is often only near the border - if the border is a path in a forest, you're not going to plonk it down in the middle of the path.

The gis database for administrative boundaries in Luxembourg[0] gets updated once a week, because the borders are based on cadastral measurements, which have been constantly updated since the 19th century. There's an error in every measurement, the idea is that over time it will average itself out.


kazen449 days ago

some borders are also based on really, really old treaties in europe. A lot of borders in regards to provinces are based on old counties and baronies for example. Baarle-hertog/baarle-nassau being a famous example of the inconvenice it results in.

Prior to world war 2, this was also the case inside germany, considering many Lander still had lands all over the place (especially prussia) which made governance a hassle.

mlavin9 days ago

I'm guessing the hole it originally sat in is still visible?

dev_tty019 days ago

Not if the soil is being farmed. Plowing, cultivation, etc. will fill in any small hole.

koheripbal9 days ago

A "local historian" - he likely knows the specific marker and has been walking past it for years.

gillesjacobs9 days ago

From experience with living near The Three-Border Region (Drielandenpunt) on the Belgian-German-Dutch border these marking stones are fairly frequent, every hundred meters in the woods.

I always figured they were mostly symbolic. At least I hope, because the local loggers have moved Germany about 30 meters into Luxemburg by uprooting a stone.

detaro9 days ago

Phone GPS struggles with that kind of precision, but for professional GPS gear (which is becoming a lot more affordable recently) few cm precision is not that much of a challenge. And I would assume that the enthusiast just noticed it being off from what it had been before and the precise number being one determined by a professional, or someone with professional tools.

capableweb9 days ago

Where I was brought up, I was taught how to estimate/measure meters in steps when in school, so everyone had a specific gait that measures a meter. 100 of those steps ~= 100 meters. No phone needed :)

csunbird9 days ago

I do not think that steps have that good of a precision (2.29%) over 100 steps for measuring distance. Can a human achieve that?

capableweb9 days ago

I was thinking more that he somehow discovered there might be an issue when measuring without good precision, and later came back to verify with a proper method.

saalweachter9 days ago

Honestly, given the roundness of 7.5 ft, I would assume that 7.5 ft was the estimate and it was improperly converted to 2.29m as a precise measure.

With the unusualness of a European measuring something in feet.

It always irks me when I see signs saying "keep 6 ft (1.8288 m) apart", because 6 feet is just a round number of the approximate distance, and it's fine to just say "keep 6 ft (2 m) apart", for all that you'll get weirdos going "Well which is it??? 6 feet or 2 meters????"

xiphias29 days ago

Quite often the border is in the middle or a side of a path / river. I think it was in the middle of the path for a reason.

autosharp9 days ago

> Belgian farmer accidentally moves French border

So if the farmer takes the stone and tractors it to East Russia, did the farmer accomplish more than Napoleon?

orwin9 days ago

I know it is a joke, but Napoleon did not want any russian land. It was a petty war he started over almost nothing, probably with a touch of arrogance, against a country that have been French friend since the muscovy duchy era. Country that did not join the anti-revolutionnary coalition despite a lot of nobles going there at first.

danlugo929 days ago

I wish that one day all borders in the world were like this.

nerbert9 days ago

Yeah it really shows how peace and nations working together can make stuff like that a non-issue. Everyone is so relaxed about it.

throwaway0a5e9 days ago

Or more cynically, things only go smoothly when there's nothing at stake.

majewsky9 days ago

It's the other way around. The thing that's at stake is economic cooperation, so both sides are more willing to find an amicable solution than otherwise.

oblio9 days ago

World peace will happen when everyone in the world [1] will be convinced that every other human out there is worth more to them alive, unharmed and happy.

[1] Or at least an overwhelming majority of people.

brnt9 days ago

Not to mention peace! War is expensive, deadly, and altogether unpleasant. It's good to know this gets higher priority than minor territorial changes.

SllX9 days ago

France and Belgium are within the Schengen Area and the sign out front says 81 years since the last Blitzkrieg.

This is really small potatoes.

enimodas9 days ago

That's what they said before ww1

BitwiseFool9 days ago

I think that's only the case because this a really insignificant amount of land, nothing is "at-stake", both countries belong to the EU, and most importantly the "real" border is a line on a map that both countries agree on.

lenkite9 days ago

Yes, let a hundred such farmers do this and claim several square kilometres of territory. After all this farmer did and got away scot-free. Thus more people can do it.

Frankly, if he doesn't get rapped on the knuckles it's a guarantee that other folks will try the same thing.

Borders should be changed via treaty and diplomacy not by some un-educated moron deciding to take matters into his own hands. That only encourages border conflicts.

Faaak8 days ago

You're the exact justification of why we can't have borders like this: because there will always be someone who knows better and wishes harm on others.

josephcsible9 days ago

You make it sound like his change to the border is going to stick. They told him to put the stone back where it was. If he refuses, he probably won't get away scot-free.

js29 days ago

South Carolina and North Carolina didn't manage to get their border recorded accurately until a few years ago. After re-surveying, there were 1400 parcels impacted.

matt_s9 days ago

Sounds like it was on purpose, not an accident, since the stone marker of the border was always in his tractor's path.

stinos9 days ago

Almost definitely on purpose. Not sure if this is limited to Belgium, but these days it's like the national sport for almost all farmers in my neighbourhood to just take a bit of land extra every year. A nearby road (well, path) used to be about 4m wide 10 years ago. Now only 1.5m is left untouched, the rest is now farmland. It is likely a sign of much bigger problems (food pricing, for one), but also an extra pressure on the few nature which is left in between the fields, not ideal when it comes to erosion, and so on.

nestorD9 days ago

There is such a stone marker in my parent's garden (their house is definitely fully in French teritory)!

To be fair they are living so close to the frontier that my cellphone picks up the Belgian cell network in their house...

Nitramp8 days ago

My father related this story of a German farmer in the northwest of Germany, who it turned out, was Dutch. Apparently somebody incorrectly mapped the border line of 1648 after the 30 years war, and so this family had (barely) lived in the Netherlands ever since, without knowing it, despite considering themselves German citizens.

I don't remember how this was resolved. I guess it thankfully just doesn't matter that much anymore, these days.

rafaelvasco9 days ago

Only goes to show how ridiculous is the idea of physical borders between countries.

yakubin8 days ago

In other news, Poland accidentally invaded Czech Republic: <>

Bayart9 days ago

We shall retaliate by symbolically pouring beer into the gutter and stepping on fried potato chips in front of the Belgian embassy.

(For the uninitiated

bigmattystyles9 days ago

But you’ve bought the beer and fries.

iudqnolq9 days ago

Let's all just forget about freedom fries, please.

wincy9 days ago

Wow, as a US citizen looking at the France/Belgium border [0] I can’t imagine what it’d be like for a disagreement with your next door neighbor to become an international incident. I suppose it’s probably just no big deal.


capableweb9 days ago

Most of the people in Europe are war-weary since wars have been had in their front-yard, as compared to some other countries who only fight on foreign soil but still seem aggressive. So I would think it's easier to keep peace with your neighbors.

kazen449 days ago

Also, digging up world war 1 and 2 bombs and artillery shell from our literal front and backyards serves as a reminder aswell.

cr18959 days ago

Oh, that’s nothing! Look up Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau on the Belgian-Dutch border.

During the beginning of the pandemic, it brought about some truly bizarre situations:

mercurialshark9 days ago

A character in Neal Stephenson's "Fall or Dodge in Hell" - exploits a hypothetical issue at the Belgium/French border to fence off his home and form a sovereign city state (enforced by armed guards, political influence and technology).

gumby9 days ago

A few meters from my mother in law's house stood a small stone marker next to the forest path (hers was the last one in the village, and was enclosed by the forest itself). One side of the stone read "Brauschweig", the other "Hannover". It was easy to miss, being buried in the undergrowth.

A few years ago someone got the idea that it was of Important Historical Interest and so moved it further down the path. It's not clear whether this moved the "actual"* border since they didn't place it in the same orientation. Somehow the misorientation annoys me more than moving it.

* "actual" gets quotation marks as the denoted territories no longer exist, though the cities by those names do.

Archelaos9 days ago

The border between Germany and France, between Rhineland-Palatinate, and the Moselle and Bas-Rhin departments is adjusted from time to time by a few meters, whenever the course of small border rivers has changed.

markstos9 days ago

My family farm got a new neighbor, who noticed that he technically owns a sliver of land with the first 100 feet of our gravel driveway, nevermind that we've been using it for the past 50 years since our property was purchased. I don't think anyone had noticed before, as this goes way back before GIS systems and satellite photos of property boundaries. For decades there's been a fence in the logical place between the driveway and the neighboring property.

The legal system would probably side with us, but it's a pain.

thaeli9 days ago

The easiest thing for everyone involved is for their neighbor to grant an easement for the existing driveway. That way they can keep using it, but it's with explicit permission, so the neighbor doesn't have to worry about an adverse possession claim. If they're not amenable to that, the specifics digfer by state, but usually it's a "boundary line agreement" or similar where you'd basically be buying that small sliver of land and amending the property line accordingly. Here's hoping their neighbors are reasonable!

markstos9 days ago

Thanks for the input! So far the neighbor hasn't been reasonable at all, so I don't expect we'll get to do this the easy way.

11235813219 days ago

If they're being unreasonable, you probably can just insist on keeping it. Take a look on the expirations by state here: Good luck!

goodcanadian9 days ago

To be fair (assuming it's a common law country), the GP probably already owns it through adverse possession if they have been using it openly for 50 years or more.

ifdefdebug9 days ago
ssully9 days ago

Have they been giving your family trouble about it? I can't imagine causing issues with your neighbor is worth such a small piece of land.

Clewza3139 days ago

A remarkably high % of the posts on are about land issues, and as usual, the smaller stakes, the bigger the conflict.

This is probably my favorite story to date of how a squabble over where to temporarily store some cut lumber escalated:

Be sure to read all 4 parts!

yalogin9 days ago

It looks like the farmer's land spreads across the border. How is that possible? Or at the very least his land goes all the way to the border line. Either way, in today's age when the line can digitally recorded, why do we need the stone? Both countries know where the line goes through. Could they not just ignore that one stone and let the farmer do his work? I was hoping they would just ignore it, instead I see that he has to put it back, else face criminal charges too.

foepys9 days ago

> How is that possible?

May I introduce you to the town of Baarle-Hertog? A town that is not only split between the Netherlands and Belgium but inside the Netherlands with Belgium owning most of the town with Dutch fragments inside it. Some houses have a Dutch as well as a Belgian address.

shdon8 days ago

The town itself is called Baarle, the Dutch part is part of a municipality called Baarle-Nassau (a little under 7000 inhabitants) and the Belgian part is part of a municipality called Baarle-Hertog (a little under 3000 inhabitants). Both municipalities also contain some smaller villages, which do not have the same border situation going on - that is entirely in the town of Baarle.

kazen449 days ago

Also, if i remember correctly, they share common services too. (things like garbage, police, fire brigade etc).

leokennis9 days ago

This made me wonder...are (most) of the (undisputed) borders of the world actually stored somewhere? Or are some stones and posts still the "official" borders?

libertine9 days ago

Here in Portugal we (and Spain) have landmarks that define the border, and there's a treaty signed in 1846 that states these landmarks should be maintained in cooperation between the two countries.

You can see some examples here, with the numbers and type of landmarks (apparently there are 1010 stone marks, other types of marks are wet marks for example, like rivers and lakes):

pedrocr9 days ago

Although we don't officially agree what those actual borders are everywhere:

jdasdf9 days ago

We both agree on the border there, see the treaty of vienna. The problem is that spain doesn't do what they agreed to do.

libertine9 days ago

I wonder when this we be brought to light, specially when we have a pressing matter with Spain that's also being avoided, yet it could be extremely damaging to Portugal... I'm talking about the management of Tejo river.

The re routing Spain is doing is contributing to the destruction of a massive portion of Portugal ecosystems.

g_p9 days ago

In the UK (technically Great Britain in this context) at least, there is an open dataset available from the national mapping authority (Ordnance Survey), which is called boundary lines. It contains all of the different boundary lines and borders of local authorities, parliamentary constituencies, regions, nations etc.

This is all geo referenced against the OSGB coordinate system.

I could see interesting challenges in doing this for international borders where both countries use different coordinate systems and projections for their mapping, and the potential for slithers of no-mans-land. I guess at a certain point, you need to refer back to what's on the ground, as over decades the land erodes from the sea, and rock formations collapse and shift as the earth moves etc. The definition of location gets far easier when you have satellites offering precision navigation and timing!

mnw21cam9 days ago

The OS maps the borders of local authorities. However, it doesn't hold the authoritative map of the borders of the counties. I don't mean the modern local authorities that call themselves counties - I mean the traditional counties, which haven't been abolished or changed for centuries. The exact location of these is defined almost tautologically - a place is part of a certain county because it has always been. The exact location of the border is more a matter of folklore than anything else.

Likewise, the exact location of borders between properties is usually ill-defined. Only borders that have gone through a painstaking process of surveying and registering (usually after a dispute or on a new build) are exactly defined. Usually, when you move into a new house, you have a fence around your property, and the boundary is generally assumed to be inside the fence (with conventions for whose land the fence sits on that aren't always followed).

Adverse possession makes it more complicated. A neighbour decided to put up a new fence, and weren't nice about it. I stipulated (in line with the law) that no part of the new fence could be placed on my property (except parts under the ground surface). They decided to put the fence in the "wrong" way round, with the vertical posts on their property, and the fence attached on their side of the posts, effectively giving me sole access to the area of land in-between their fence posts. If I were to sell my house, the new owner would be quite reasonable in assuming that that land was theirs. After the requisite time, I could apply to have the land legally registered as mine, although the new laws mean that the neighbour would be informed and given a chance to "evict" me from the land - they would have to tear down their fence and rebuild it the right way round so that I don't have sole access to it any more. In this way, adverse possession effectively resets the boundary to where the actual fence is in practice every now and again, which means that the land registry doesn't need to store exact boundary locations.

pacaro9 days ago

My parents' house is a good example of this. The rear boundary of the property is defined as being some distance from the road. It's not totally clear (although I assume that there is a standard) whether this means the curtilage or something else. When the land behind the property was redeveloped (from a run down witches cottage to a block of flats) it was important to my parents that the treeline at the rear of the property not be cut down. The deciding factor was the rusted remains of an old fence on the far side of the trees. I had been under instructions as a kid to not mess with that or pull it up because my parents knew that it was important to preserve this kind of evidence

iso16319 days ago

In the UK, most freehold boundaries are available as a gml file. I'm looking at moving house and have one open right now in fact, here's a screenshot of it

The white area being roads and non-registered land (mainly stuff that hasn't sold for decades and roads).

It's great, I can find a unique owner for any bit of field I have a question about, the size of the plot, etc.

The downside is that to get a copy of the actual entry in the register (to see who owns it and any covenants on the property there are), you have to pay £3. The entire process is digital and automated, IMO it should be free, but I suppose it's not a terrible price.

simpss9 days ago

it has a small price so it becomes difficult/cost-prohibitive to use for nastier purposes.

ex, in my country forest owners get spammed and targeted by forest-management companies that want to cut it down.

NelsonMinar9 days ago

Are those boundary lines the actual legal international definition of the borders? Or is it just some convenient representation close enough for ordinary uses?

You'd think location via GPS or similar framework was easy but it's not nearly as easy as you'd think. Among other things, the land is moving. Both continental plates and then also local features like river beds. See e.g.

gmueckl9 days ago

If this was in Germany, there would be a fairly high precision map somewhere that records the intended position of each marker stone. This is usually the case for demarcations between private properties. If one of them gets moved, surveyors get sent out to measure the proper location from the map data and surrounding markers. And there's usually a fine for whoever moved such a stone.

Bayart9 days ago

They're stored in law. Treaties define borders in (seemingly) unambiguous terms. Meridians, river beds and so. Problems arise when river beds move and everything becomes extremely ambiguous. In the worst case scenario you've got borders defined by older borders of poorly documented feudal holdings and it's up in the wind where the actual border ought to be. So states have to negotiate to redefine them in modern terms.

leokennis9 days ago

Ok…but I’d assume those are pretty hefty law books then?

“Follow river such and so, then on that one field of farmer Jones turn left until the tree, turn right and walk in a straight line to that pointy rock, then walk back to the river etc. etc.”?

thaeli9 days ago

Yes, this is pretty much what actual "metes and bounds" deeds from several centuries ago look like.

tinus_hn9 days ago

The ground itself can move over 5 cm a year due to tectonics.

selimnairb9 days ago

And river meanders are doing just that, meandering to and fro, changing (albeit slowly) continuously. Modern borders need to be tied geodetic datums, which has been also mentioned are also constantly changing (although probably more slowly than most rivers) and need to be updated continuously. The new datums coming out of the GRAV-D project will address the need for continuous updating (

BerislavLopac9 days ago

I'm not really sure how would one really mark this with stones...

Wafje9 days ago
rosstex9 days ago

What exactly is going on here?

BerislavLopac8 days ago

History. :)

MauranKilom9 days ago
Invictus09 days ago
OldHand20189 days ago

Yes, but in some of those cases, the borders have been set while the water hasn’t.

Like this hilarity:,-89.1155927,15z

bombcar9 days ago

Rivers are an incredibly convenient border and also incredibly flexible over time. "Go west until you hit the river" is easy to understand and convey, and when things are measured in square miles or local it doesn't really matter, but over time that river moves and the exactitude of the boundaries matter more and more.

macintux9 days ago

My uncle argued such a case before the U.S. Supreme Court: the Ohio River is gradually migrating south into Kentucky, so more of that state is now on the Indiana side of the river.

yosito9 days ago

Serious question: why does anyone but the farmer care? A 2m move in the middle of a field hardly seems to make much of a difference to anyone else.

Anechoic9 days ago

It's likely that surveys reference positions from that stone. No one may care now, but a few years down the line if someone is trying to survey the path for a rail project, power line, etc, that could lead to problems.

bigmattystyles9 days ago

Because you have to draw the line somewhere!

macintux9 days ago

I’m conflicted: HN frowns on humor, but this really is a brilliant reply.

kingkongjaffa9 days ago

Surely grounds for a full scale invasion!

avereveard9 days ago

They will bypass their land defences going trough Germany

thedanbob9 days ago

Reminds me of the dispute between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island:

StavrosK9 days ago

Must be nice to have neighbours that aren't threatening to go to war if your borders change.

kazen449 days ago

mind you, this was not the case in Europe for a better part of it's history.[0]

[0] [1]

frockington19 days ago

Are there many border wars in the developed world? I can think of Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan but admittedly am not familiar on the subject

StavrosK9 days ago

Turkey is threatening war if Greece extends its borders to the 12 nm allowed by the UNCLOS. A farmer moving a stone that changed the border here would be a serious incident.

robert_foss9 days ago

Russia/Ukraine is a big one. China/neighbors in the South China Sea.

rsynnott9 days ago
wglb9 days ago
pers0n8 days ago

Texas stole land from New Mexico by setting the border wrong

Wolfenstein98k8 days ago

What a charming story.

nob0dyasked9 days ago

Huge if true!

blacksqr9 days ago

Now do Mt. Fuji.

henvic9 days ago

Damn. Just leave the farmer alone.