There’s a big, metal dragon behind the trees, in the field beyond the common. It comes ever closer, rattling and shuffling, until I can just make out the cab of a tractor pulling a plough.
I can smell the muddy earth as it’s raked through and turned over. And then, when I walk up onto the football pitch, the aroma turns to newly-mown grass. There’s a mini-tractor abandoned near a goal mouth, a perfect circuit cut out on the turf as if the field is being converted into an athletics track. Either soccer is making way for the four hundred metres or the mower has broken down. Or maybe the driver’s just gone to answer a call of nature.
The common cuts through the edge of this village. It begins with a copse where, a few years ago, volunteers formed informal but sturdy paths, steps and bridges over streams. The trees are full of rooks and their nests. It turns into a marshy area where orchids grow before becoming a small car park to service the football pitch, or, to give it its proper name, the community sports field .
This pitch was used years ago by village boys who are now almost old men. It was restored in more recent times by a willing and hardworking set of parents with the aid of grant funding and money raised from fetes and the like.
The common is split in two by the main road, down which motorists approach the village too quickly, the stupidity of drivers behind the wheels of liveried vans all too apparent as they exceed the 20mph limit, the name of their company emblazoned on the side of their vehicles. If brains were dynamite, they would not have enough to blow their beanie hats off.
The route to the rest of the common goes past the old toll house, where once a fee was collected to use the road. The house is now beautifully restored and up for sale, with an asking price of £495,000 – £205,000 more than it cost eighteen months ago. Someone, somewhere will fall in love with it and snap it up. A Londoner, probably.
Along the lane and the common opens out again into a copse of poplars before going into the point of an arrow head further up the hill towards Lewesdon.
The common, which in total covers seven-and-a-half acres, belongs to no-one and everyone, with the parish council for years trying to establish who bore the ultimate responsibility for this land that time forgot. It’s maintained now by local people and farmers, guided by a management plan drawn up by Dorset Wildlife Trust on behalf of the parish council.
There’s beauty in the detail, beauty in the whole. Common land for common people. Perfect.