By the top of June 2020 the lockdown had eased and I used to be strolling with 40 or 50 individuals alongside a part of the HS2 street between Leamington Spa and Wendover. It was a march organized by the teams HS2Rebellion and StopHS2, aiming to spotlight the influence on biodiversity and communities. I’ve been trying to get entangled within the anti-HS2 marketing campaign for a while now, however the previous two years have been extra politically targeted right here in West Berkshire and it has been 13 months since I used to be elected to West Berkshire Council. I signify Newbury Speen, an space that hosted many Newbury bypass protests within the 90s, made well-known by Swampy.
Wednesday evening I arrived drained and barefoot after strolling 60 miles in 3 days at Jones’ Hill Wooden close to Wendover.
I sat across the fireplace, listening to the inhabitants of the woods speak in regards to the wildlife, biodiversity and tales of Roald Dahl consuming whiskey with the native farmers as he wrote the adventures of Improbable Mr Fox, and I been captivated. I fell in love with the place, so as an alternative of constant to Euston with my fellow walkers, I stayed, shifting my tent from the adjoining discipline into the wooden itself. 4 days later, I used to be 60 ft away in a treehouse that might change into my residence for the following 13 weeks.
Dwelling in a wooden, rain or shine, won’t be the right summer season exercise for everybody, however I liked it – having struggled with nervousness and despair ever since. as I left the Royal Air Pressure, it was a chilled expertise. My psychological well being has drastically improved. Despite the fact that I had spent every week or two at Leith Hill in Surrey in early 2017, nothing may have ready me for Jones Hill Wooden. Whereas we had been there to guard the wooden from impending destruction, our bushes protected us. Spending each evening within the department and branches of my 150 yr previous beech tree felt like I used to be being kissed, cradled and held within the arms of an expensive good friend. Even when the wind was blowing at 70 km / h, I used to be not afraid. We have now revered the wooden and reciprocal wooden, thus guaranteeing our security. Standing within the cover, swaying within the wind for a number of yards, was exhilarating. I had by no means felt extra alive.
After 12 weeks of the stillness being shattered, at 5:30 a.m. on October 1, they arrived of their black paramilitary gear, crossing the sphere on Bowood Lane, protected and facilitated by the HS2 Taskforce police. We knew they had been coming – certainly, I used to be sitting of their resort bar the evening earlier than, listening. For some time, I checked out them as an alternative of being watched.
They cleaned half of the tree homes and all the bottom workers within the first 12 hours. Then the rain got here. That first evening was sleepless, as my lonely treehouse now had new arrivals – refugees from a misplaced treehouse – a pair who escaped the clutches of the eviction workforce and crossed over to to my sanctuary. At round 11 p.m., I made my strategy to the sting of the woods through ropes to assist one other pair of activists return to the woods after their eviction earlier within the day. For a number of quick hours, there have been 5 of us in my tiny treehouse, singing, laughing and attempting to remain heat and dry. At dawn on October 2, we discovered that we had been the following to be kicked out. They got here a number of occasions of their pod, trampling the wooded floor, stirring the undergrowth as they approached. We have now seen them a number of occasions with ropes and nets. They retreated every time however not earlier than my sanctuary was destroyed, as every assault appeared a bit extra of my construction. Till about 3 p.m. I used to be alone, locked to a tool connected to the tree. The police kidnapped me that night, because the temperature dropped and the rain continued to sit back me deep inside. I used to be defeated and spent the evening in police custody earlier than heading to Oxford Magistrates’ Court docket on Saturday.
After my launch I returned to Newbury and attended the Inexperienced Get together convention, speaking in regards to the woods and the occasions of the earlier days. It was such a disappointment to be fired simply 36 hours after eviction. Being arrested so simply was irritating. I felt that I had let down my fellow activists and the wooden. I felt that I had given up too simply. I felt responsible for letting my comrades resist the ability of HS2 and the authorities. I could not relaxation. I needed to do extra. The subsequent few days had been hell, I used to be stressed, needed to make amends, and so at 5 a.m. a number of days later I went again into the woods and joined the three remaining activists within the final hut in bushes.
We might be joined by a number of extra that morning and we might resist all seven till October 8, earlier than the wooden was lastly cleared of the protesters. The final hours have been brutal. On a private stage, I stated I would not resist as soon as the police obtained their arms on me, however the bravery of my fellow activists was humbling. I noticed devoted and passionate younger girls defending this tree and the woods till they might not endure the ache and onslaught of the police climbers – screaming in agony as their limbs had been twisted and overwhelmed as they grabbed the tree with a purpose to cease this mindless destruction. . They had been the heroes of Jones’ Hill Wooden to me.
As a Inexperienced Get together advisor, I discover myself balancing my civic and advisory tasks with my activism. However as a councilor, I’ve a accountability to my constituents to ensure they’re represented on council right here in West Berkshire. Certainly, I attended all my board conferences remotely from the woods and I managed my file all through my keep within the woods.
I even have a broader accountability to guard them and their households from the consequences of local weather change, and that’s the reason I proceed to oppose SH2 and push for a future that isn’t in jeopardy. by our personal inaction within the face of all of the proof.
We at the moment are on the finish of February 2021, and as soon as once more we’re caught. It has been over 4 months since I used to be lastly kicked out of the Bean Can treehouse in Jones Hill Wooden and I really feel extra restricted and the sense of misplaced freedom is extra acute now than after I was incarcerated . There’s something oddly liberating about placing your self in peril and giving up your freedom. I questioned if I might be afraid of arrest and imprisonment, however after seeing the destruction, I’m extra afraid of inaction.
Jones’ Hill Wooden nonetheless exists, however stays at excessive threat. The occupation has saved valuable time, permitting environmentalists and legal professionals to construct a case towards these concerned in HS2 who proceed to destroy our countryside with out the right authority. They ignore the legislation and sometimes appear to make an apology quite than permission. Locking out retains me from going again into the woods presently, but when the chainsaws come again I shall be again.