Sunday 23rd March 1997
Greenpeace's campaign is about stopping oil drilling in the wilderness of the Atlantic Frontier, a campaign set to run over the summer to build up to the Kyoto Conference on climate change at the end of the year. Greenpeace want an end to the supply of new oil in order to prevent global warming, at Manchester Airport we will be opposing the fastest growing users of fossil fuels - aeroplanes.
However Manchester Airport's PR department has been putting out the story that 50,000 jobs will be created by the project, and as I arrive at Piccadilly Station and make my way to the bus station I see why a line like that will sell here. Despite my own ragged appearance, I am approached by beggars as I walk, and some of the city's homeless can be seen sitting in the sun in Piccadilly Gardens, surrounded by the concrete buildings, noise and pollution of the city. By comparison with the life of this urban underclass, the prospect of living in a makeshift camp in the middle of the wilderness is highly desirable. Poverty isn't just a lack of money or housing, it is being cut off from the natural world that should be our common heritage.
I meet my first eco-warriors on the lane just before I get to the site. These are Adrian, a tall young man with a pronounced West Country accent, and a young woman who is very well spoken and truns out to be local. They lead me to the main entrance to the site, a gap in the hedge by the main road. A few years away is the main entrance for the contractor's vehicles. I can see the start of the fence that was started earlier in the week, and which caused the first confrontations with the security guards employed by the construction company.
I am greeted cordially and I explain I'm here to stay and ask where people are needed. I an told that a camp called Wild Garlic has just been set up and needs people. I ask for directions and are given some meaningless stuff about avoiding Cliff Richard, going through Zion Tree and past Bollin Bay, and I'm pointed vaguely in the direction of the current runway.
I slither off over the muddy grass and eventually come across a sign saying "Sir Cliff Richard OBE Vegan Revolution" and what appears to be a well fortified camp. Following the directions I was given I follow the edge of the woods and eventually come to a cheerful sign saying "Welcome to Zion Tree" which is at the top of a slippery, muddy slope through the trees. Struggling under the weight of my rucksack I slowly work my way down the hill and come out into the Bollin valley itself. A broad water meadow completely hidden from the surrounding fields, where the river meanders through the wooded slopes. A small copse by the water's edge contains an empty bender. Multi coloured ribbons are tied to the leafless branches.
The camp itself is reached by a rickety wooden bridge over the stagnant and filthy water. On the other side is a large, communal bender and two smaller ones, for cooking and tool storage. Various eco-warrior types can be seen moving around and doing things ....
Alas it ends there. After that I was too busy tunnelling to write ...