2019 has seen the culmination of a dream, one in which Waveney & Blyth Arts have a stake. W&BA members Melinda Appleby and Brian Guthrie have led two successful walks along Cowpasture Lane, Mellis (near Diss) as part of our annual Celebrate events programme. The walks proved popular because of the link with nature writer Roger Deakin, whose home, Walnut Tree Farm, lies adjacent to the lane and features in his books.
During the 1980s, when agricultural intensification was still being encouraged, Deakin was instrumental in preventing the removal of the lane and only a small section was lost. In 2016 we walked from Thornham Parva to Mellis reading from Deakin’s books along the way.
The current owners of Walnut Trees Farm kindly welcomed walkers to look round the flower filled meadows that surround the farmhouse. We discussed how landscapes influence writers but also asked if writers influence landscape. There were whispers that perhaps the missing section of Cowpasture Lane might be reinstated.
In 2019, as part of our Bugs & Blossoms campaign, we led a stroll round Mellis Common culminating again at Walnut Tree Farm, with a few of us swimming in its famous moat. The whispers were louder: there was a real plan to bring the community together to replant the lane.
At the end of November, when rain had puddled the heavy clay soil, the planting weekend took place. More than 2,500 hedgerow plants and trees were planted on either side of the footpath south of the main railway line. Sixty of us took part, including tree wardens from all over Suffolk, local residents, a district councillor and families with children. Notably, nature writers Robert Macfarlane and Patrick Barkham brought their families to help. Soup, tea, coffee, a fire, cakes and other delights were provided by local people. The work was part of a Woodland Trust More Hedges scheme with additional funding from Suffolk County Council and coordinated by local residents, Edwin Van Ek (Woodland Trust) and Suffolk Tree Warden Network.
A small but inspiring story of how words can inspire action and how communities can work together to put nature back. We will be watching to see how the lane evolves. There might be walks and celebrations; maybe a special follow-up walk in 2020.