Mellis common by Mike Dodman
14th November, 2019
This morning, mid-November, the sun was shining bright and early from a clear blue sky, so Hubby and I decided not to miss the opportunity to venture out. I quickly made a flask of soup, filled some rolls and we were off!
We didn’t travel far before we arrived at Mellis in Suffolk, where we browsed the furniture and furnishings housed in The Old Mill before settling ourselves outside in the village car park to eat lunch. We ate facing the common to enjoy the vista before changing our footwear and setting off for a stroll to wherever the grassy paths led us.
We were astonished at the size of the open green space and found out that for some reason or other, Mellis Common escaped the fate of so many other villages that lost land under a series of Acts of Parliament which enclosed open fields and common land. Those Acts created legal property rights to the fortunate (or greedy) few, to land that was previously used by commoners to graze their animals. In fact, between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual acts enclosed 6.8 million acres. Lucky enough to have escaped enclosure, Mellis retains the largest area of unfenced common land in England.
Puritan Oliver Cromwell whose Parliamentarians controlled the East of England, trained his troops here in 1644, ready to do battle with Catholic sympathising King Charles I, whose death warrant he signed in 1649. Strange then, when we entered the church basking in sunshine behind huge Irish yew-trees in the churchyard, to find a yellowing coat-of-arms dedicated to Charles I and dated 1653. Perhaps the congregation had been sympathisers too…
We left the church whose building began in the 13th century, sorry to see that its tower had fallen in 1730. Never replaced, the precious stone was re-used to build a raised path across the boggy land known as The Carnser.
As is the case with so many of East Anglia’s beautiful churches, it is left to the imagination as to how sumptuous the interior must have been in its prime, and the painted tracery of the rood screen only hints at the glorious sight that must have been beholden by congregations of the past.
Out again onto the spongy grass, we basked in the profound silence and imagined the meadows as they must have looked then. Now, thankfully, they are managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust using age-old methods that ensure a succession of wild-flowers as well as nutritious grazing for the animals.
We concluded our morning out and about in Suffolk, determined to try to visit to a new place of interest every week if possible.