Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Another World Is Possible: Port Sunlight

Port Sunlight was somewhere I'd heard of, but had never been to, until I passed through in February 1997 whilst campaigning for the Labour Party in the Wirral South Byelection. As I was given my leaflets I was quickly briefed on how the election had been called after the death of Barry Porter, which was a little bit of a shock as that was my Dad's name and I was counting on him for a lift back from the station.

Seeing the leafy gardens and Ford Mondeos I remember thinking that's there's more chance of Tranmere Rover getting promoted to the Premiership than Labour getting an MP returned here.

But Labour did indeed win, overturning an 8000 Conservative majority to return Ben Chapman, the son of a farm worker, to Westminister, a sign that eighteen years of Conservative rule may be about to come to an end. Tranmere Rover were less lucky though, missing out on the promotion play-offs again.

But if Bebington is now about as posh as Merseyside gets, Port Sunlight at least has a more proletarian past. It was built by the ruthless capitalist, paternalistic philanthropist, arch Imperialist and connoisseur of the arts William Lever, one of the two Lever Brothers who made their fortune out of Sunlight soap, who built the place to house his workforce.

Port Sunlight has two claims to fame, that it is an example of an ideal community designed by a wealthy industrialist, and that it is styled in the manner of the Arts and Craft Movement.

Lever wasn't the first Capitalist had built a decent place for the great unwashed to live. Richard Arkwright had used the prospect of good housing to persuade families to move to Cromford to work in the first every mill over a century earlier, and Robert Owen had been carrying out an experiment in Utopian socialism in New Lanark for more than eighty years before work started at Port Sunlight.

However whilst Owen was experimenting with Utopian socialism up in Scotland, Lever was very much the Liberal.

It's easy to look back nostalgically at old Liberals like Lever. After all, they're so much nicer than the Neoliberals we have today. Today, Sunlight soap would be made in a sweat shop in Burma, with the Levers holed up in a tax haven on the other side of the world.

But there were always limits to the liberalism of people like Lever.

Yes, the great unwashed could be decently housed and guided to live more righteous lives, but their wages would increase by less than his wealth, and nobody had the right to stop Lever's brand of laissez faire capitalism spreading round the world.

There was also no local democracy here, or any attempt at communal living like in New Lanark. Instead Lever knew exactly how he wanted to clean up the Working Class who moved into his houses, and so he dictated exactly how they should live their lives.

George Orwell called in on his way to Wigan Pier in 1936. He liked the houses and the low rents, but was unhappy about the rules and regulations Lever set control his tenants, seemingly on the basis that it was slum dweller that made the slum. Orwell, knew that the pub was an imprtant part of Working Class life, and who wrote an essay on the perfect English pub, lamented the one "dismal sham-Tudor" pub provided.

Neither can we really claim that Port Sunlight is the best example of Arts and Crafts style housing in Britain. That's probably Blackwell in the Lake District for the real thing, or Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton, a place which made Andrew Lloyd Weber cry, for an off-the-peg example.

However it is fairly unique in that it is Arts and Crafts houses for the ordinary man, which is actually a bit disappointing for a movement that aimed to improve the lives of the ordinary man.

The Arts and Crafts movement was inspired by the radical Conservative John Ruskin and the anarchic Socialist William Morris.  Both were
equally horrified by the shoddy goods that the Industrial Revolution was producing and the shoddy lives led by the industrial Working Class.

It's noble aim was to take on Adam Smith's division of labour, replace the wage slave with the skilled craftsman and give everyone beautifully designed and hand crafted objects.

Unfortunately these ideals could rarely be realised in real life. Objects could be beautiful or mass produced, handmade or cheap, but they couldn't be beautiful and cheap without either working with industry or working for industrialists. So at Port Sunlight we have one of the world's most successful Capitalists building houses in the style of a movement that opposed everything about the way he did business.

Since 1980 you haven't needed to work for soap factory to buy a house in Port Sunlight. House prices are about the national average, although a little higher than the Merseyside average, and all told the area appears to be for the moderately well off rather than stock brokers. Certainly the VWs
outnumber the Mercedes.

There are still rules and regulations if you live there, but there's nothing to stop soap dodgers like me turning up for a nosey round.

The village is centred round the war memorial, which stands opposite the Lady Lever art gallery. It may seem strange that the village is built around a memorial to a war that happened forty years after it was built, but apparently they were saving the
spot for a postumous cast of Lever himself.

Beyond the War Memorial is the Lady Lever Art Gallery, where Lord Lever showed off his art collection. I don't know what his employees made of it, but he was very keen to show them. It has really a great collection of work by those other rebels against the industrialised world - the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Like the Arts and Crafts people, the PRB had a mixed relationship with the Establishment they'd set out to rock.

Like Orwell, I want my idyllic cottages a less neat and my life a bit less controlled than Lord Lever would have liked.

All told Port Sunlight shows what's possible when philanthropy meets good design. There's no reason why our cities shouldn't be beautiful as well as useful, human sized rather than supersized.

Another world is possible.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

My Top Five Westerns

A few weeks ago I turned the TV on a few minutes before the film I wanted to watch started, and caught the final few minutes of How The West Was Won. George Peppard was driving family across gob smackingly gorgeous Monument Valley scenery in an open wagon. Then the scene cut to aerial shots of the 1960s America pioneers, like his character, had helped to forge; a monolithic cornfield, soulless skyscrapers and a massive motorway junction.

Save to say that scene probably didn't have the effect on me that the director had intended.

That said, I do like Westerns, although they are a strange genre.

I can easily understand why universal themes such as love, war, crime and comedy have become established in the movies, but why a brief period of nineteenth century American history should have become a staple of global cinema is a bit of a mystery. After all, the equivalent period in British history was potentially just as exciting, but didn't really catch on.

To historian Arnold Toynbee this was down to the romance of the nomad, and he compared how the cowboy is remembered in the USA to the Mongolians who look back the great days of Ghengis Khan.

But as another late, great historian, Eric Hobsbawm, has pointed out, only the American cowboy has gone global. John Wayne did indeed play Genghis Khan, but the film is now only remembered because many of the cast, including Wayne himself, died of cancer, possibly from nearby nuclear tests.

The success of the Western, probably, is mostly due to the power of Hollywood, backed up by politicians, from Kennedy onwards, who used the myth to their own advantage until, in 1980, a real fake cowboy made his way into the White House, followed in 2000 by a fake, fake cowboy.

And a myth the West has always been fake, even when the West was reality.

In his Frontier Thesis of 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner claimed that in settling the West, Americans finally ceased to be Europeans and finally became themselves. He discounted race, class and gender, and said the West was defined by violence, individualism and a distrust of authority. As history it was pants, but as a myth it was brilliant. Only a decade after the publication of his paper the first Western movie, The Great Train Robbery, had its premier in New York.

Very few of those early Westerns are remembered fondly - which is a polite way of saying they were crap - and the classic films generally belong to a narrow era that started with John Ford's Stagecoach in 1939 and ended with the spectacular turkey Heaven's Gate in 1980.

If I were to make a list of the five best Westerns I'd include the usual suspects of High Noon, The Searchers, The Wild Bunch etc, but this isn't that sort of list. The standard interpretation of the myth of the West doesn't really interest me. I could also have chosen A Man Called Horse, Little Big Man, Dances with Wolves and other films that centred on the American Indian experience, but I'll save that for another time. What I couldn't do though is choose my top five female characters in Westerns. A Western is more likely to have a car chase than a strong female character.

Instead what I have here is a very subjective list of Westerns that mean something to me. Here goes.

5. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

As the Western is now part of the world's culture, it is not surprising that it has had influences around the world. Perhaps most surprisingly it took root in is the country the USA so comprehensively defeated in World War Two, Japan.

Akira Kurosawa transferred the Western to feudal Japan, and so well did he understand the rules of the genre that his films ended up being remade as real Westerns. The Seven Samurai for instance became first The Magnificent Seven, and then Battle Beyond the Stars - a Western in outer space. Hidden Fortress skipped the Western genre entirely and went straight on influence Star Wars - another sci-fi Western.

His film Yojimbo, the story of a lone Samurai who walks into a town ruled by two feuding gangs and proceeds to wipe them both out, was itself inspired by Dashiel Hammett's semi-autobiographical 1929 detective novel Red Harvest. It too became a Western, not in Hollywood, but in Italy.

This was Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars, the film that made Clint Eastwood the last actor to become a star by appearing a Western. That film was followed by For A Few Dollars More, which added Lee van Cleef to the cast. Filming in Italy meant a nominal 'Mexican border' location', and so in its travel round the world the Western regained some of the multiculturalism of the Old West which had been purged by Hollywood.

For the third part of the loose trilogy, Eastwood and van Cleef were joined by Eli Wallach, one of the most unlucky actors in Hollywood. He'd been signed up to play the lead in From Here To Eternity, but Frank Sinatre allegedly used his mob connections to get the role, and the Oscar.

Longer than a cattle drive across Texas, and more a series of set pieces than a film with any sort of plot, this is genre film making at its best, with any pretence to be historical fiction completely out of the window. Like other Leone Westerns, the scenery is almost a character in itself, and Leone appears to direct around Ennio Morricone's music rather than the other way round. Indeed, you only need to here a couple of bars of the classic theme, even on a ukulele, to imagine the tumbleweed blowing across the prairie, the cloaked figure slowly chewing tobacco and the extreme closeup to a pair of shifty eyes.

Arguably Leone's last Western, Duck, You Sucker! (also known by the marginally less macho title of A Fistful Of Dynamite) is better even though it does seem to be saying something serious about anarchy and revolution.

There is nothing whatsoever serious about The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

4. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

But the West wasn't a myth hanging in the air waiting for an auteur like Leone turn up and make an artfully violent film out of it. Instead it exists because it is a foundation myth of a people creating order out of a state of primordial chaos though their own actions.

This is all very much an American thing. Over here in Blighty a cowboy, of course, is not a heroic cattle hand with a chiseled jaw, but a dodgy builder with an exposed butt-crack. The British Empire had its wild frontiers, but they (almost) always had law and order.

Take Canada, for example, which bordered the real West. The Klondike gold rush, the last real eruption of that old frontier spirit, saw prospectors hoping to get rich quick land in Skagway, Alaska. There, whilst hooping it up in the saloon, the boys were usually fleeced of their last dime by the owner of the town, Jefferson Randall 'Soapy' Smith.

NWMP at the Chilkoot Pass
If they survived that and made it over the border to Canada they were met, under a fluttering Union Jack, by a detachment of North West Mounted Police, in their scarlet tunics and brass buttons, who dispensed first aid and ensured that anyone proceeding further had enough supplies to survive. One notorious Kansas villain made it to Dawson Creek, the Canadian town at the heart of the Klondike, where the Mounties ejected him from a saloon, for the crime of 'talking too loudly'.

America, by contrast, was an almost a stateless society. The Seventh Cavalry might have been out there fighting the Injuns, but in the towns the people had to do it themselves.

That said, the West was nowhere near as violent as the myth makes out. Each year, between 1870 and 1885, the average number of people shot dead in all the cattle towns of the West, including Dodge City, was just one and a half. The real villains, it seems, were con men like Soapy Smith out to take your money, rather than gun men like the villain of this film, out to take your life.

Gun men make better cinema though, so here we have Jimmy Stewart's honest politician taking the credit for shooting dead Lee Marvin's titular baddie, when he was really gunned down by John Wayne. By the end of the film the local newspaperman knows the real story, but declines to run it saying "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend", before presumably going off to get a job at Fox News.

Perhaps though he should have said "film the legend", for the story of the West was being made into cinema even whilst it was being written. In 1915, for instance, the lawman and Indian fighter Bill Tilghman was making a film about a bunch of crooks called the Oklahoma Outlaws when he had to break off to help hunt for one of them, Henry Starr, who had just robbed a bank.

3. Unforgiven (1992)

Nearly eight decades later, when this film was made, the Western was something of a dying genre. The Marlborough man had smoked himself to death and the cowboy had now left the White House. Perhaps not surprisingly it's a fairly revisionist film.

John Wayne's gunslinger may not have been as smart a Jimmy Stewart's politician, but he was certainly a decent enough guy. This film question though whether those who live by violence are really such well rounded individuals.

The cowboy was essentially made and then destroyed by technology. Effective and mass produced personal small arms, such as the revolver and repeating
rifle, gave the cowboy affordable firepower that allowed him to kill both Indians and wildlife at will, and in relative safety. Eventually technology would produce barbed wire which would make the cowboy redundant, but for a while the man on a horse with his gun really was the symbol of the West.

On the face of it this film is just another one of those films where Clint Eastwood plays one of those cowboys with a gun who shoots lots of people. Dirty Harry in a stetson. Certainly we have the same ambiguity between good guys and bad guys, and the same contempt for the law and formal procedures.

However what we also have is an examination of what makes a gunman different to a man with a gun. This isn't just skill at arms, but psychology. Clint's killer is effective not just because of his quick draw, but because he's a psychopath. This is real stuff. Research has shown that even amongst trained soldiers, only a minority would actually aim their weapon at an enemy soldier with the intention of killing him. Most of us are not killers by nature.

Eastwood's character is, and he certainly does shoot a lot of people, seemingly not able to properly retire from the killing game.

This was true of a few real desperadoes too. Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and Jesse James all had opportunities to fade away and live out their days making honest money, but somehow they couldn't manage it. Strangely they are all fondly remembered today. This film suggests that perhaps they shouldn't be.

2. Treasure of Sierra Madre ( 1948)

But why were people heading West anyway? For freedom and adventure is generally the answer in the movies. Maybe, but I suspect it was mostly about making money.

For all the myths of the cowboy as the loner, he was always very much connected to the money economy of the East. Everything that happened in the West, from hunting to prospecting, ranching to mining, whatever wasn't done for survival was usually done to make money. 

This film barely counts as a Western. It takes place in the Mexican desert and so most of the staples of the genre are missing. There's no Sheriff, no rowdy saloon, no railroad, and the Indians who turn up noticeably lack feathers and tomahawks. Then there is the date it's set, 1925.

There was no magic date though when the Old West ended and the twentieth century began. By 1890 there was no real open space left to be claimed, and so no Western Frontier as such. The USA now stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but large parts of it were still lawless. The original Wild Bunch weren't rounded up until 1903 - the year of the first Western - and many other outlaws lasted longer than that. Henry Starr, for example, having evaded Tilghman in 1915, was eventually shot dead in 1921. He was robbing another bank at the time, but this time his getaway car was parked outside. Mexico though was still pretty wild in 1925, recovering from its revolution, and an attempted military coup in 1924.

In my opinion though, it's theme definitely makes it a Western. Basically three Americans go into the desert in search of gold. They find their fortune, but loose their minds.

Written by the mysterious 'B Traven', an unknown German with anarchist sympathies, it was directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Boggart, it's brilliantly played by everyone. Traven even squeezes in a bit of Marxism.

Which is perhaps why it's not considered a real Western. Real Westerns celebrate that one man can grow rich off the labour of a thousand less fortunate souls. This film shows the inhumanity of that view.

1. Lonely Are The Brave (1962)

So what is there for a liberal Green to enjoy in Westerns. Are they just celebrations of stylised violence, national self deception, real life psychos and Capitalist greed?

Not entirely.

My favourite anarchist writer, Murray Bookchin, regarded the rugged individualism of the cowboy as a better seed on which to grown real social ecology than the state socialism of Europe.

You can also, if you will, take the view of the West at the end of How The West Was Won and wind it backwards. Rolling back history to before the natural beauty of the USA was despoiled and polluted, covered in concrete of monocrops, before the buffalo herds were exterminated and the barbed wire put up, you have the cowboy living fairly lightly on the land.

That's what Edward Abbey had his hero Jack Burns doing in his novel Brave Cowboy. Abbey is usually remembered, if he's remembered at all, as the author of The Monkeywrench Gang, the book that popularised monkeywrenching and inspired the creation of Earth First! Many people assume that the hero of that novel, George Hayduke, was Abbey's favourite character. But he wasn't. That was Jack Burns.

This is a 'modern' Western, although as it was written in 1962 it was set closer to the time of the real West than to today. Modern Westerns generally take one of two forms. Films like Bad Day At Bad Rock (a really great movie, unlucky not to be in this list, which is almost unique in showing prejudice towards Japanese-Americans during World War Two) have modern characters acting out a Western theme, in that film the stranger arriving in the 'town with a secret', or else they have Western characters appearing the modern world, such as Clint Eastwood's Coogan's Bluff, which inspired the TV series McCloud.

Abbey goes for the second approach, but Burns isn't a violent lawman, but a cowboy loner who seeks out the few remaining wild places of America, whilst earning a thin living herding sheep. The film is a pretty straight remake of the book, and stars Kirk Douglas's chin as Jack Burns.

Jack's friend Paul Bondi has been sent to prison for helping some illegal immigrants. Determined to rescue him, Burns gets himself jailed for brawling with a one-armed man in a bar, played by Bill Raisch, who also played the fellow Richard Kimble was after in The Fugitive, so they can escape together. However with a family and an academic career, Bondi would rather serve out his time than escape, so Burns busts out himself and heads for the Mexican border.

Soon he is fleeing over the mountains pursued by Walter Mattheu's Sheriff, who can call on the US Air Force for help, as well as George Kennedy's thuggish Deputy.

Burns is a veteran who doesn't carry a draft card, a man who believes in natural justice but has no respect for the law. He's an anarchist of a very American type, and one who's individualism has no limit. He's a lover of wilderness, and who would rather live out his days as fugitive in the hills than submit to the government.

In the book it is the more philosophical Bondi, rather than the taciturn Burns, who expresses the author's concerns. "I see liberty being strangled like a dog everywhere I look, I see my country overwhelmed by ugliness and mediocrity and overcrowding, the land smothered under airstrips and superhighways, the natural wealth of a million years squandered on atomic bombs and tin automobiles and television sets".

Abbey's enemy is entirely faceless. The Sheriff is a sympathetic character, respecting Burns and
having little time for the Air Force General who only wants to tell him the dollar value of the helicopter Burns has shot down.

In the end *SPOILER ALERT* Burns evades the law and gets himself and his horse over the mountains until all that remains between him and freedom is that icon of modern America, Route 66. But in the end the modern world wins and Burns and Whisky are knocked down by a lorry load of toilets bound for Albuquerque. Whisky is killed and Burns, who you imagine prefers to disappear behind a rock for his ablutions, is taken off to hospital. In the original draft of the novel Burns dies. But Abbey couldn't bare to leave his hero dead on the tarmac, so the ending is left ambiguous.

It's a great film - Kirk Douglas said it was his favourite - and it's a pity more people haven't seen it. It's fate is usually a graveyard slot on TCM movies. Perhaps its message is not one that most Western fans want to hear. Whilst the planned film version of The Monkey Wrench Gang remains in limbo it's the only big screen Abbey we're able to see.

As for Burns, Abbey did indeed have him return, in his posthumously published sequel to The Monkey Wrench Gang, Hayduke Lives!, in which he teams up with the gang, and Earth First!, to take on the world's biggest walking dragline.

It's a long journey from Ronald Reagan conservative to Earth First! anarchist, but what they share is the figure of the cowboy as living in a liminal place between civilisation and wilderness.

Like all great myths, that of the cowboy can be read in different ways. That some have used it to justify corporate greed, preemptive warfare and the environmental destruction should not stop others from seeing exactly the opposite message in these films.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

What We Now Know About Thatcher's Government

All government's have secrets, but in a democracy it's hard to hold onto them forever.

The truth usually comes out, but unfortunately by that time the myth is usually so well implanted that it makes very little difference. With a new Thatcher myth being tacked on to the old one as we speak, lets look at some of the things we now know.

I could have done a list entirely on the Falklands War, her initial wobble, the attempted Argentinian attack on Gibraltar, the role of a squadron of light aircraft in confusing the task force etc etc, but these things make very little difference to the story.

I could also have done a list just on the Miners Strike, the BBC 'mistake' in editing the Orgreave footage to make it appear the miners started the trouble, the MI5 involvement, and so on, but I think most people who would listen already know these things.

So instead here is a very subjective list of what has come out since the Iron Lady left office.

1. Northern Ireland

In many ways this is something we still don't know.

John Stalkers' enquiry into the deaths of six terrorists suspects at the hands of a special RUC unit has never been published, but it doesn't really need to be. It's quite clear what we had here was a Death Squad in all but name.

What's less clear is what happened next. Certainly the RUC stopped shooting people, but suddenly the SAS started.  

There is probably no single answer to what happened. Sometimes they may genuinely have been shooting in self defence. At other times it is clear SAS teams were deliberately put in situations where the IRA would attack them so that they could retaliate, such as the Loughgall Ambush. Then there were the so called 'mistakes', such as the three killed in Gibraltar.

How effective this was in fighting the IRA is open to debate, and it might well have been very effective.

What we now know though is that serious efforts were starting to be made towards bringing peace to the Province. John Hume of the SDLP and Gerry Adams of Sein Fein had already had meetings to agree a pan-Nationalist front, and Irish Taoiseach Charles Haughey was aware of this. Allegedly he tried to get Mrs Thatcher on board, but she declined.  We don't know the details of these contacts, but we now know the offer of an IRA ceasefire was genuine. 

Instead the Iron Lady proposed a Cromwellian solution involving the expulsion of the Catholic population and a redrawing of the border with the Republic. As this would potentially involve the ethnic cleansing of up to half a million people, her adviser were somewhat unenthusiastic.

So whilst Thatcher continued with her fantasies, British soldiers continued to die in a war that was ultimately all about nothing more important than, in the words of a friend of mine from Crossmaglen, what colour the post boxes should be.

2. The Secret Deal With Murdoch

We all know that Murdoch helped make Thatcher. What we didn't know for sure, until recently, was what he got in return.

When the Dodgy Digger's purchase of The Times in 1981 was not referred to the Monopolies Commission it raised a few eyebrows. The decision was taken by a minister, and the story, as reported in the Official History of the newspaper and repeated by Murdoch in TV interviews up to 2003, was that at the time Murdoch and Thatcher scarcely knew each other.

In reality he had been round for lunch at Chequers and was corresponding freely with the person he called "My dear Prime Minister".

So 'The Thunderer' became a mouthpiece of the Murdoch empire, not quite as vile as The Sun or the News of the World, but still a pro-Tory, pro-Israel, pro-USA instrument of propaganda.

3. Mark Thatcher In The Desert

No, not the time he got lost in the Sahara whilst taking part in the Paris-Dakar Rally, but his involvement with the largest arms deal in history.

In 1984 Mark decided to do his bit for the country by emigrating. He'd just been exposed by The Observer as a potential beneficiary of a project to build a £300 million University in Oman. Mrs T., who'd lobbied the Omanis to get the contract for the company, tried to brush the scandal off by claiming she'd been 'batting for Britain', but it had been a close call, so Mark was exiled.

However had the public known at the time what else Mark was involved in, it might have been Maggie who'd received her marching orders.

Getting to the bottom of the £40 + billion deal by which we keep the desert kingdom armed to the Fraud investigations have been opened and closed, and the deal was the subject of the only National Audit Office investigation never to be published.
teeth in exchange for 600,000 barrels of oil a day has been the Holy Grail for investigative journalists for more than a quarter of a century.

What we do know though, is that right at the heart of Al Yamamah was Mark Thatcher.

He has denied receiving £12 in sweeteners, but what we do know is that he got very rich, very quickly and hasn't come forward to explain how. What we do know is that he acquired, via a front company based in Panama, a £1 million Mayfair flat and a £14,000 Rolex. All this from a deal negotiated by his mother.

If there was one scandal that could have brought down Thatcher whilst she was PM, this was surely it.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Protest Walks #1: Wild Garlic at Manchester Airport

Being a circular walk through the Cheshire countryside taking us from the Iron Age to the Jet Age via the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

Approximately 8 miles, taking about three and a half hours, mostly on good paths (but with one muddy bit though) and involving very little climbing.

OS Explorer Map 268 Wilmslow, Macclesfield & Congleton

Starting point: Car Park on Lindow Common

1. Lindow Common

Lindow Common
The walk starts on Lindow Common, a Sight of Special Scientific Interest to the west of the prosperous commuter belt town of Wilmslow. The area may be Footballers Wives, but here on the common you can see why the Ancient Britons regarded this area as a liminal place, neither earth nor sea.

At the centre is the Black Lake, which in Welsh in llyn ddu, from which we get Lindow. Visit at twilight and you get an idea of how the Ancient Brits could regard the shadowy reflections in its waters as glimpses into the Otherworld.

When you are done exploring, leave the Common by the southwest exit, cross Racecourse Road and walk down Lindow Lane, marked as a dead end. Carry on until you reach a T junction at Racecourse Farm and turn left. Carry straight on at a crossroads of footpaths and byways until you come to another T junction where you join Rotherwood Road.

2. Lindow Man

Reconstruction of Lindow Man
You are now on the edge of the field in which the head of Lindow Woman was found. The police used the discovery to prompt a Mr Reyn-Bardt to confess to the murder of his wife in 1960, but it turned out the body was much more interesting, being nearly 2000 years old.

The next year the even better preserved body of Lindow Man, known locally as Pete Marsh, was found. A young man who had done no hard labour prior to his death by strangulation, a blow to the head and possibly drowning, he also had traces of mistletoe in his stomach. Mistletoe being sacred to the Druids, his 'triple death' in this liminal place suggested human sacrifice. Radio carbon dating places his death in approximately the first century AD, right about the time that the Romans were conquering this part of the known world. Could Lindow Man have been an offering to the Gods, asking them to turn back the seemingly unstoppable legions with their suspiciously straight roads? Protest AD60 style.

Peat cutting in 2015
Incidentally, ignore the grid reference for the location of the find given on Wikipedia, in the guide book and the various press releases. That puts Pete right in the middle of a definitely not Iron Age former corporation rubbish dump about a kilometre north of here. That was deliberately misinformation to put off looters. The actual spot is just off Moor Lane, near the houses you can see on the far side of the field.

Peat cutting has now finished here, so nobody knows if there are more bodies waiting to be discovered, including the unfortunately Mrs Reyn-Bardt?

3. Morley Green

Mist on Lindow Moss
There isn't much to see in the field today, unless you are lucky enough to experience one of the ethereal mists that come down on the moss and seemingly take you back 2000 years.

Peat cutting and draining of the area has changed the ecology completely, but the community here on the Moss does still feel removed from the outside world.

Turn right on Rotherwood Road and keep walking until you see a sign for a Private Nature Reserve. By now aircraft noise is probably starting to become a feature of the walk.

Carry straight on, following the purple signs for Lauren's Ride and Bridal Path to Morley. the road becomes a path and then a road again, bearing right until it arrives in the middle of Morley Green.

Morley Green
Cross the road, leaving the village sign on the green to the right and the Cheshire Smokehouse on the left. Continue down the road for about 500m, ignoring the footpath on the right, but taking the one on the left a few yards further on marked Castle Mill.

This leads to a path that soon becomes rather muddy that take you towards Manchester Airport. You will see a red and white radar dish in front of you.

If you wish a walk unspoilt by the twentieth century you can take the footpath through the metal kissing gate on the right and rejoin the walk at the Holiday Inn. However as the whole point of this walk is to visit the sight of events in 1997 I suggest you carry straight on, following the path which keeps left when you get to a triangular field.

4. Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic in the Bollin Valley
The path descends towards a wooden bridge and here should find yourself assaulted by the scent of wild garlic. When asked to describe the smells of the protests of the 1990s may aromas come to mind, but the most pleasant ones were wood smoke and wild garlic.

Here in the Bollin Valley we were immersed in the garlic from dawn to dusk. Sometimes, when we were hard up, it was added 'frasiers' - cakes made from self raising flour and water - which made something resembling food, but only just. I would like to say that after months of living in the camps I was infused with garlic too, but most people would say I smelt of much worse.

Not far past this bridge, you come to another junction. Take the footpath to the right marked Bollin Valley Way.

Eviction day, May 1997
If this was 1997 you would now be headed towards a security fence, lit at night by arc lights, and patrolled by Police, Bailiffs and up to 500 security guards. All this was to remove less than a hundred protesters from the sight of Manchester Airports second runway. The camps were first surrounded by wire and guards, and then the protesters were slowly removed from their treetop houses and tunnels.

Bored security, 1997
I was evicted on the first day, but I returned three days later, at night, along the path you have just walked with Ollie Big Dog and Kim. Our aim was to get back to our camp, appropriately enough called Wild Garlic, which was being evicted. We slipped between the security guards, climbed the fence at a spot where the barbed wire was missing, and evaded the bailiffs who were patrolling on quad bikes with night vision devices. I created a diversion whilst Ollie and Kim made a run for it. They didn't make it.

A few days later I returned with a BBC documentary maker. She too wanted to get inside the security perimeter. She'd asked for a cameraman, and had hoped for some young hotshot with a camcorder. instead she got a grizzled old veteran with a camera the size of a suitcase, who regaled us with stories of wars he's covered around the globe whilst we blundered around in the dark. The film never got made.

5. CAR2

Zion Tree
As you walk towards the sound of jet engines you will see the incongruous sight of fully laden jumbo jets rising slowly over the Cheshire Countryside. During the days of the campaign Against Runway 2 the aircraft appeared to grave the top of the great beech of Zion Tree camp.

The camps were located either side of the large tunnel you can now see in front of you, which was build to accommodate the River Bollin.

In 1997 protesters, and journalists looking for a scoop, soon discovered the limitations of security guards paid less than what is now the minimum wage. On dry land they'd hand you over to the police, but faced by a river a few inches deep they decided to keep their feet dry and you could walk into the site unmolested along the river.

When you join the path that runs round the perimeter of the runway, next to a wooden bridge, you will find a sign board that tells you that archaeologists discovered during the building of the runway that our medieval camps were built on the sight of a iron age farmstead. It would be too much to imagine that Lindow Man came from here, but it's not impossible.
Manchester Airport Tunnel, 1997

To visit the site of the camps themselves, take a little diversion into the tunnel.

On the right, as you enter, would have been River Rats, which you reached form here via a dodgy rope walk over the river. Beyond that would have been the Camp Cliff Richard (funny how we never got the press to run that line, especially once it had been penetrated by the Sheriffs men) where Swampy and the serious protesters lived. Beyond that and nearer the road was Flywood, home of the leery, beery trolls who snaffled the prized donations of food and booze.

Manchester Airport Tunnel, 2013
Towards the end of the tunnel and also on the right would have been Zion Tree, and on the left my own camp called, appropriately enough, Wild Garlic. No occupied trees survive, but if you carry on out of the tunnel and into the bushes on the far side you come to a steep bank on the left with a muddy ditch in front of it. technically this was probably part of Wild Garlic camp, and the ditch became our moat, complete with drawbridge. On the day it was defeated by a copper with longer than average legs, but it looked the part.

Wild Garlic camp, 1997

Although the poor old yellow hatted security guards were paid peanuts, the expert climbers and rescuers used to get the protesters out of the tree houses and tunnels were collecting a hundred pounds an hour or so for their work. We tried to make their job as hard as possible.

One of the more colourful characters in Wild Garlic was Carl, who came from a rather interesting family in New Brighton. Carl was the proud owner of more piercing than anyone else, and he tried to use these to aid the defences of the camp.

Carl meets the press with nail
When the climbers reached his tree house they found him lying with his head against the wooden pallet that made up the floor, attempting to hammer a six inch nail though the hole where his large ear stud had been using the blunt end of a hand axe. It didn't work, the nail wouldn't go into the wood, but when he gave up the climbers told him to lie back down again as they could get an hours extra work out of this. They ordered up some special tools, and then spent the next hour chatting and smoking with Carl.

My own contribution to the defence of the camp was rather more limited. Eviction day found me on day patrol. Down by the bridge across to Zion Tree i met some men in black balaclavas across the water. "Hello," I said, assuming they were with us. "F*** Off," came the reply, as they weren't. They were either a special police unit, or more likely the SAS anti-terrorist unit, called in after bogus claims we'd booby trapped the woods. They demolished the bridge, leaving the River Bollin between me and them, which I thought was a good idea. We'd though Wild Garlic would be hit first and I'd volunteered to help local activist Jeff Gazzard with the PR, so my camping days ended rather mildly as I walked off the site voluntarily.

6. The Airport

Manchester Airport
Return to the bridge and turn left out of the tunnel, heading north. As you climb up towards the fire station you will see the whole of Manchester Airport to your left. A marvellous technological achievement, modern air travel has joined the world together like no other achievement. At any one time there is the equivalent of the population of Manchester in the air. On 99 days out of 100 every single one of those passengers will arrive safely, which isn't something you can say about many means of transport.

However it is an achievement only made possible by the chance existence of oil. The kerosene used as aviation fuel has twice the energy density of TNT, and every day Manchester Airport uses 3000 tons of the stuff. As it combines with oxygen when it is burnt, a ton of aviation fuel produces three and a half times its own weight in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and the primary component on man-made Climate Change. In addition the vapour trails of high flying jets also heats the air. A quick back-of-an-envelope calculation suggests that the airports contribution to Global Warming is of the same order of magnitude as the rest of the city of Manchester.

7. Styal Country Park

Yet more wild garlic...
Continue along the Runway 2 Trail. After the Fire Station the path is badly marked and continues across the grass, not down the access road. Eventually you descend down some steps to the A538, by a roundabout and near the Holiday Inn. in 1997 this was the Moat House. It didn't usually serve protesters, but if you hung around long enough you'd usually find a journalist willing to buy you a drink for a story.

Cross the main road and continue down the unused road off the roundabout to the north. It can be used as an unofficial car park, as it was in 1997, if you want to start the walk here. Had you been here on the morning of May you'd have found a bedraggled group of survivors from Zion Tree, including a journalist with a bleeding ear, and a battery of press trucks which included everything from ITN to L!VE TV - although neither the News Bunny nor any Topless Darts players were seen.
Styal Cross

At the end of the short road a sign shows you are entering National Trust land. Go through the gate and follow the path, keeping right when it branches after about 100m. You are now following the River Bollin as it meanders through a low gorge.

On the left in Arthur's Wood, the scene of another protest in 1999 when more trees were cut down during the construction of the second runway.

Cross the river at Giant's Castle Bridge then again at Oxbow bridge. The paths multiply as you enter Styal Country Park and if your not careful you can find yourself going round in circles. I kept left after Oxbow Bridge, crossed a dry valley on Chapel Bridge, and then at a small metal bridge turn left.

This takes you along the holly hedge that borders Norcliffe Chapel and then on to Styal Cross, a Victorian erection on a medieval base that has had a number of adventurers before returning to its original site a few years ago. Go through the gate marker Quarry Bank Mill.

8. Quarry Bank Mill

Quarry Bank Mill
So how did we get from venerating nature as the home of the gods (and sacrificing the odd posh person to her) to seeing it as both the source of a free lunch and a dustbin that never needs emptying?

Part of the answer is here at the mill, for we are now at the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

Built by Samuel Greg 1784, just 13 years after Richard Arkwright showed the way at Cromford, and before the steam engine was a viable concept, this water powered mill showed the future.

The scale of the mill was, for its day, astounding. But the mill didn't just represent technological step change, but a social one as well. For the first time, the working day was set by something other than the natural cycle of the earth, as people served the machines and not the other way round.

Styal Village
Whole families worked here, including children from the workhouse who weren't paid. the Greg family also owned slaves in the West Indies, but forced labour for white children continued here for years after it was outlawed for black adults.

So why did people give up their pastoral existence to become wage slaves in a Dark Satanic Mill. You've actually just walked past the answer; the picturesque Styal Village. The mill offered regular work, regular wages and a place to live, something worth the loss of the occasional finger.

Things got better of course, and it was the much maligned Victorians who sorted the factories out. But Dark Satanic Mills still exist, just not in this country, and the products of their sweated labour arrive in this country in part via Manchester Airport.

9. Wilmslow

Explore the mill if you want to, then take the path in front of the Mill Pantry marked "Picnic Area". Continue on a path that again takes you along the River Bollin. There's a diversion to the weir and further on it diverges again, but whichever route you take you eventual end up at the B5166. Turn right and cross the river on the foot bridge next to the road bridge and continue to the car park you see in front of you.

Cross the river again at the bridge and continue straight, ignoring a path to the left. Continue on past the rugby ground on Kings Road. You are now in Wilmslow, home to stars of the Premier League and Coronation Street, and a thriving Aston Martin dealership. At the end of Kings Road is the A538, along which I used to trudge in 1997 on the way to the off license. Well, there wasn't much else to do in the evening at the camps.

At the end of Kings Road turn left to the Premier Inn, on the other side of which is Lindow Moss where we started.

The route:

Leave Lindow Common by the southwest exit, cross Racecourse Road and walk down Lindow Lane, marked as a dead end. Carry on until you reach a T junction at Racecourse farm and turn left. Carry straight on at a crossroads of footpaths and byways until you come to another T junction where you join Rotherwood Road.

Turn right on Rotherwood Road and keep walking until you see a sign for a Private Nature Reserve. Carry straight on, following the purple signs for Lauren's Ride and Bridal Path to Morley. the road becomes a path and then a road again, bearing right until it arrives in the middle of Morley Green.

Cross the road, leaving the village sign on the green to the right and the Cheshire Smokehouse on the left. Continue down the road for about 500m, ignoring the footpath on the right, but taking the one on the left a few yards further on marked Castle Mill.

This leads to a path that soon becomes rather muddy that take you towards Manchester Airport. You will see a red and white radar dish in front of you. Carry straight on, following the path which keeps left when you get to a triangular field.

The path descends towards a wooden bridge. Not far past this bridge, you come to another junction. Take the footpath to the right marked Bollin Valley Way. By the tunnel under runway, join the Runway 2 Trail and turn right over the bridge.

Continue along the Runway 2 Trail. After the Fire Station the path is badly marked and continues across the grass, not down the access road. Eventually you descend down some steps to the A538, by a roundabout and near the Holiday Inn.

Cross the main road and continue down the unused road off the roundabout to the north. At the end of the short road go through the gate marked National Trust and follow the path, keeping right when it branches after about 100m, following the river. Cross the river at Giant's Castle Bridge then again at Oxbow bridge and keep left. Cross a dry valley on Chapel Bridge, and then at a small metal bridge turn left.

Follow the holly hedge that borders Norcliffe Chapel and then on to Styal Cross. Go through the gate marker Quarry Bank Mill.

Take the path in front of the Mill Pantry marked "Picnic Area". Continue on a path that again takes you along the River Bollin. There's a diversion to the weir and further on it diverges again, but whichever route you take you eventual end up at the B5166. Turn right and cross the river on the foot bridge next to the road bridge and continue to the car park you see in front of you.
Cross the river again at the bridge and continue straight, ignoring a path to the left. Continue on past the rugby ground on Kings Road.

At the end of Kings Road turn left to the Premier Inn, on the other side of which is Lindow Moss where we started.