A friend has offered to show me around Mellis. It’s a place I’ve read about constantly in Roger Deakin’s work, but shamefully never visited. I meet her by the Memorial Hall after sneaking a look at Walnut Tree Farm, or at least the flash of yellow wall I can see from the road.
The common itself consists of flower-strewn meadow, areas of rough grassland and dozens of ponds – all fringed by pretty old houses and a church. It is beautiful and quintessentially English in a strange kind of way. After all, it’s hard to think of something as ‘quintessential’ when it is desperately rare, bordering on unique. There are only 6,000 hectares of grassland left in the UK.
Even Mellis is not without its problems. A desire for neatness has gripped some of the villagers. Allowed by by-laws to cut a metre of the common in front of their home, some have gone much further; trimming and topping until the roughness is gone. It is the smoothing of a diamond to dust.