A little light road protest research…

Solsbury Hill (by Andy Milford, posted under a Creative Commons license)

For an interesting, inspiring, heart-breaking, maddening morning, I can recommend going through this archive of environment & road protest camp news and links from the late ’90s onward.

Strangely, no one I’ve found seems to have put together a list of protest camps. I’m almost done with getting one together, though it’s limited to road protest sites that existed long enough to get evicted and to make it into SchNEWS communiques or the like. There are plenty of other sites still going – strangely, the monstrosity that is industrial civilization doesn’t seem impressed that it’s 2012… I’m sure the bulldozers and chainsaws will fall silent once December 21st comes around, however… (This is by way of a joke at my own expense, having spent much of the late ’90s and early ’00s espousing my own brand of Mayan 2012-ery. For those of you still holding your breath for an Ascension, a mighty Convergence or a similar Saving Event, I can only say, ‘Ghost Dance.’)

Anyway, all my research has been for a good cause, that being a bit of an agitprop installation at Uncivilisation 2012, growing ever closer…

Also of interest in my researchings: The Green Fuse protest history page and the great links on Jim Hindle’s Nine Miles and Adrian Arbib’s Solsbury Hill site, to name but a few.

I’m particularly looking forward to meeting Jim at Uncivilisation next weekend – Nine Miles is an extraordinary book, essential reading for anyone who was alive in the 1990’s and has had anything to do with life on the margins of this crazy society. It had me in tears more times than any book for years, and I’m still only starting to understand why. I wasn’t even a road protestor – I was too afraid, of many things, not the least of which was my own mental health. Perhaps that’s one reason the book affected me so much.

There’s much, much more on the road protest subject to come – right now, here in the full madness of summer and preparations for festivals and storytellings, is not the place for those thoughts, but soon.

In the meantime, anyone who’s even vaguely interested in what happened in the ’90s could do better than take some time to follow a links-trail from Twyford Down and Solsbury Hill to Fairmile, Newbury and the Pollock Free State (stopping off at GalGael, where we were a mere matter of weeks ago, on the way) and getting at least a passing acquaintance with The Land Is Ours, Earth First! and Reclaim the Streets, before heading to Bilston Glen (still going) via the M6 toll road at Birmingham and Stanworth Valley. Don’t forget Wanstonia or the Dongas either, or how it all began. You might need to check out Greenham Common, the Battle of the Beanfield and the Stonehenge free festivals, too. Before you know it, there’ll be the Levellers (both lots), General Ludd and Crazy Horse breathing down your neck. Good luck. You’re in fine company.

Given the mood of the current government, you might be needing the skills learned in some of those places sooner than you’d like. Educate yourself now, before the tree-fellers come your way, I reckon.

But all this was intended to be a quick aside – interesting links to videos and the like will have to wait for another day! There’s work to be done!

(EDIT 30.11.13 – there’s much more in the comments below, and links to photos of the commemorative installation that resulted from the research. Do follow the links…)
(from Jim Hindle’s ‘Nine Miles’ site)

18 thoughts on “A little light road protest research…

  1. It is possible the economic crisis will put a halt to further major road building for a while. It appears there is no money available for repairing pot holes let alone build more roads.

    1. Indeed, let’s hope so. There are worrying signs, though. Construction companies have a pathological need to ‘construct’, and the complexities of modern economics require a constant shifting of funds about in curious and spurious ways (ie up the hierarchy). There has been a lull in roadbuilding since the ’90s, but there is a pot of money currently available for major new projects. Check out: http://www.schnews.org.uk/stories/ROADS-TO-HELL/ and http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/campaigns/roads-to-nowhere/map – thanks for commenting, Alex :)

  2. Thus far, with a little help from friends, the list is thus (in no order at all):

    FAIRMILE, Devon A30 1996
    NEWBURY BYPASS, Berkshire, A34 1995-96
    M11 LINK ROAD – EAST LONDON 1993-95
    St. Austell North Eastern Distributor Road 1997
    Peakes Parkway – GRIMSBY 1997
    Pressmennan Wood – EAST LOTHIAN 1997
    M66 MANCHESTER 1995-96
    Birmingham – Relief North Road (M6 Toll) 1998
    Mill Flean (Derby) 1998
    Bingley ‘Relief’ Road – Bradford 1997-98
    Avon Ring Road – 1998-99
    Twyford Down M3 extension, 1992-93
    Epsom, Surrey – 1998
    Teddy Bear Woods Camp, Weymouth, Dorset, 1998
    Solsbury Hill, A46, Bath, 1994
    Bilston Glen, A701, 2002-ongoing
    Camp Bling, A1159, Essex, 2005-2009
    Gorse Wood Campaign (Rettendon, Essex) – A130, 1999-2000
    Jesmond Dean, CRADLEWELL BYPASS, Newcastle, 1993-94
    Pollock Free State, M77 Glasgow, 1994-95
    Cuerden/Stanworth Valley M65, Preston/Blackburn, 1994
    Dalkeith Bypass, A68, Midlothian 2005-06
    Thanet Way, A299, Kent 1994-95

    Any corrections, additions, thoughts or reflections are very welcome!

    1. Weymouth’s Teddy Bear Woods camp was set up by a bunch of us from Fairmile and some local Weymouth activists not long after after the Newbury evictions – which I’m pretty sure was around May of 1996 – not sure when it got dismantled….’Friends against the Brown Route’ was the local FOE group that initiated if memory serves me right I think…

    1. Yes, a friend of mine fractured his spine in similar circumstances in Midlothian, if I remember rightly. Scary stuff. Massive respect due.

  3. Delighted to see these listings…
    Thank you for documenting a formative time for many of us.
    Do you know Alex Plows of Dongas Tribe fame? She may offer great resource for this work, I will be hosting her in October, shall send her your way if you wish it?
    Meanwhile I wonder if the ‘roads protest’ delineation means you leave out say Manchester Airport, where a very, very lovely valley was destroyed for a new runway. But not before the Jimi Hendrix, Wild Garlic, Zion Tree and my own tiny ‘Janis Joplin’ camps had been displaced.. I think this was about 1998.
    Also the Nine Ladies stone circle in Derbyshire successfully protected from quarrying, with a camp and direct action.. this was slightly later as I recall. (As perhaps you can tell by now, I was based up North in the late 90s.)
    And then there were the early 90s Welsh open cast mining protests, the Yorkshire peat bog pixieing… but perhaps I am drifting too far from roads?
    Finally, perhaps no reference to the UK’s recent road protests would be complete without a link to the Wild Horses of Newbury, filmed by a friend at that passionate, heart-breaking time: http://youtu.be/dzATCoRbIpY
    Wishing you well for Uncivilisation; I won’t be there this time, had enough with the uncivil aspects of that branch of culture.
    Speaking of macho, Pete Styles’ Book ‘Birds, Booze and Bulldozers’ gives one man’s somewhat uncouth view of those passionate, heart-breaking days high on the trees and low down underground…
    He annoyed a lot of people in the movement with his brand of ‘humour’, but he was there, and there it was. Taught us all a lot I reckon.
    X x

  4. aha, can’t edit after posting – Didn;t mean to say Pete taught us all a lot (tho he did, a bit) but the whole period, movement, times were were a part of. We still know and look at each other a certain way, even today. xx

    1. Hi Zoe – thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. The delineation of ‘road protest camps’ v ‘all the other camps that have gone on from the ’90s to now’ does seem a little arbitrary in retrospect, but it has turned an almost impossible job into a manageable one! Otherwise, all that you mentioned would be here for sure! Not to mention Faslane, Greenham, Doe Hill, the ongoing Scottish open cast protests, and on and on! It’d end up being a book. Anyone?

      As for ‘Wild Horses of Newbury’ (which should be shown on national television every day, after the news) – they (and Alex Plows) will be making appearances in the already-drafted, but-getting-longer-all-the-time Coyopa ‘Very rough guide to travellers, protest sites and resistance.’ Coming soon. But not until Uncivilisation’s been and gone – sorry to hear you won’t be there, but I understand why. You’ll miss a good story, if nothing else ;)

      See you along the way.

  5. Yayy… sounds like a Plan.
    it’s been on my mind that when mentioning accounts of that time, I could have done well to mention Cartoon Kate Evans’ ‘Copse’ and Merrick’s “Battle for the Trees”.. Also perhaps the initiating Earth First! tour by a few feisty North Americans (come in, the lovely Tom Snaggletooth, where are you now?) who fired our engaged spirits early 90s with stories, videos and more about how to take direct action;
    Then later the Ecotrip roadshow touring universities and festivals with songs and more to raise the love of the trees…
    I’ll miss a good story this weekend indeed, and much more – So many good people I met there, in those circles we held. I trust the Light Valley paths we meandered can take new forms this year, with the HomeComing theme…
    As for me I’m going to be speaking and learning more about abuse of untameable women instead, at a Lancaster Uni conference called ‘Capturing Witches’, 400 years since the Pendle women were tried…
    Yes to seeing you along the way,

    1. Thanks for those other pointers, Zoe – it was a great weekend, the best yet at Unciv by far. I think you’d have liked it. I hope the ‘Capturing Witches’ conference was a good’un. I know you’ve already seen Jody’s post which includes some photos of the memorial installation at http://ecolabs.posterous.com/155521227 – I’ll be putting more up on that theme soon.

  6. Cinderpath woods and Stanworth Valley as part of the no M65 protest is often overlooked – the peril of having happened in the North of England I think. There was a sustained protest for over a year strongly supported by Earth First groups from Manchester, Lancaster and Liverpool and drawing protestors from across the country including a few M11 veterans. The first substantial tree village of around 40 tree houses was built at Stanworth and evicted in May 1995. The evictions did get national media coverage and there are a few bits and pieces online Adrian Abib has some lovely photos of the site.

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