When the government decided to approve the obscure little road project called the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road they probably didn't think twice about it. It promised to knock four and a half minutes off a journey along the coast and create 500 odd local jobs, at a cost of £100 million plus. At more than £150,000 per job, that seemed a little bit high, but at least the great car economy could be kept spluttering along for a bit longer.
|Bender at Three Oaks|
The road, though, crossed Combe Haven, a water meadow on the fringe of Hastings, that is ‘probably the finest medium-sized valley in East Sussex outside of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ – and that’s a quote from the East Sussex Council report on the road.
This prompted the Combe Haven Defenders, the sort of motley group of protesters that John Tyme would have been proud of, to leap to its defence, and when negotiations failed they took to the trees.
|Indra and fishing net|
Things started to kick off just as the January snow arrived. One of the few people there to have done this sort of thing before, Indra Donfrancesco, told me of freezing wet winds and protesters huddled six to a bender like dormice and kept going by hot soup delivered by local supporters.
Soon this new generation were leaping from branch to branch like the eco-warriors of Newbury, leading the professional climbers a merry dance through the branches. As Indra says “the strength comes from the strength of the trees and the power of our convictions, it awakes something deep in us all, long since compromised to servitude”.
|Three Oaks Eviction|
The first camp to be cleared was Three Oaks, a four hundred year old grove defended by walkways and nets, donated by local fishermen, which hung from the trees. Indra spotted a pre-dawn raid by the climbers and it eventually took a week to remove the protesters from the trees.
Other camps were also defended by tunnels and concrete lock-ons but eventually the experts brought in to clear them – one of whom claimed to have personally evicted Swampy – removed them and the trees fell.
However that doesn't appear to be the end of things. The Defenders have since then delivered a fallen tree to an East Sussex County Council Meeting and set up another camp from which to continue to disrupt tree felling and hedge clearing operations. More actions are planned.
But even if the bad guys win the Second Battle of Hastings, like they did the first, that won't be the end of it. There are currently 44 local and major road schemes under construction or due to start in the next two years, and that's not including our own Peak District Motorway.
So we've had the Third Battle of Newbury and the Second Battle of Hastings and maybe we'll have the First Battle of Swallows Wood too, and they'll be more until we find better ways of getting about than our own personal one ton petrol driven devices.
It's either Peak Car or Peak Motorway and it's our choice.