Last week I visited the field that Patrick Whitefield bought some years ago, where he used to live in his tipi. It has been bequeathed to the Somerset Wildlife Trust, and it is open to anyone who wishes to go there (and, of course, to treat it respectfully). I almost expected to meet him when I arrived, though in fact there’s a clear feeling that he has moved on. What is left here is something very special – quiet, peace, lush meadowland (not very tall, but rich – any horse or cow that ate this would be frisking around maniacally), and crowds of purple flowers. The field is now not what he made it, but what he has allowed it to become.

No tipi of course, and no fire with a kettle coming to the boil.

Patrick bought the field about 25 years ago, from an old man who had never used chemical fertilisers or pesticides on it. At the time, I remember him telling me that only 3% of Britain’s traditional wildflower meadowland still existed. He fenced off one edge and planted trees, which he loved, though later he felt a little guilty about using even that small piece of wildflower meadow. Nevertheless, I’m glad he did. There’s a little gate that leads you in among the trees. The woodland is now a 30 ft, 40 ft canopy, and at ground level are enough young ash trees to re-populate western Europe.

Before I went out there, a friend sent me this quotation from Thomas Berry, which I think would have chimed very well with Patrick himself: “Whatever preserves and enhances the meadow in the natural cycles of its transformation is good. Whatever opposes or negates it is not good. My life orientation is that simple.”

The field is clearly looked after and managed to some extent, but mostly it is left to follow its own devices. Some trees have fallen, and the mix of species is probably gradually changing to that which most suits the area and the particular piece of land. I imagine that this is what a corner of England looks like when people don’t interfere. The meadow has developed different zones – I suppose they were always here, but now much more pronounced, with different plants dominating according to conditions of damp, shade and so on. Where I used to collect read-grass for the floor of my bender is now a patch of tall rushes of some sort, nearly blue. I remember Patrick noting that the watercourses change over time, maybe that’s it. And I don’t think there’s any rabbits here.

I expect the hay is still cut once a year as part of its conservation regime – next month, August, is the time to find out.