Country mouse – Mark Hedges

At the end of our lane, hidden in a beech copse, is the Gypsy’s Grave. A small mound of moss coated earth which has at its head, on a piece of polished wood, the single word ‘Traveller’. It has been there for many, many generations. Nobody in the vicinity knows for how long, or what the man’s story was. The favoured tale is that the gypsy was caught stealing sheep and hanged. Criminals couldn’t be buried in the local churchyard, so his people took him away and buried him by the road.

Last week, there were fresh primroses in a little silver pot by the grave. The flowers are replaced haphazardly and are usually wild. I find this remarkably touching, and often dip into the copse to see if they have been replenished. I wonder who does it. Few graves in the church are as well looked after, and even fewer attract fresh flowers, especially for someone who died so long ago. The modern gypsy has an often-deserved, fearful reputation. Last month, a friend had his dogs stolen by them and held for ransom. They aren’t liked. There is, however, something noble about the upkeep of the grave I like to think it’s all done by a purer breed of Romany.