Some ideas, finding their way into the mind, attach themselves like chewing gum to every passing thought, and so it is with me with respect to drainage, the subject of my last (note 262).
I had not intended to return to the subject, but find myself reflecting that as it runs through Fenstanton the A14 also serves as a drain. Mr Honey, who has a place outside the village, tells me that his heart lifts a little at every lorry that he sees passing to the port, and he says to himself, thank God that’s not stopping here. Mr H is a man who would not mind if the whole of mainland Europe were to sink beneath the waves under the weight of these lorries and their exports. He is a little Englander, and hence I looked to him for a response to the suggestion raised by my companion Professor W, master of the Norfolk school, that that canny lad, Capability Brown, a man of considerable capacity, might never have developed a landscape of his own around the village of Fenstanton because Hall Green was still common land and the commoners had rights to graze cattle and sheep over it. He had expatiated upon the point – Brown never had to deal with common land because most of his owners were rich enough to have bought out all the commoners’ rights before Brown received his commission.
Mr H did not seem to me to address the problem in a direct manner. First he exclaimed that a cobbler’s children will always go barefoot, and then, nettled, retorted that Fenstanton was a very nice village and he didn’t see why Brown should have wanted to change it.
Mrs B, our companion, suggested that Brown would have left it alone. He was in love with Huntingdon and its gentle, undulating countryside – but Mrs B is from the vicinity and might be biased.
The Brown Advisor would have questioned the Professor, for Brown often enough had to deal with common land of one kind or another – at North Stoneham, at Broadlands, at Southill, at Laleham. His habit was generally to act as though it wasn’t there. At Pirton he ran a sunk fence between the park and the common, along a boundary long enough to persuade one that he found something admirable in commons. While he might have been able to plant Hall Green at Fenstanton, by reaching some sort of agreement with the commoners, without dispossessing them of their rights, I find myself inclining to the view of Mr H, that after all he was happy enough with things as they were.