Combe Haven Week 1: Summary, reports and pictures December 22, 2012
Clearly trying to get the jump on the Link Road’s opponents, contractors started work on the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR) proper on Friday 14 December with a move to cut down the trees near Adam’s farm in Crowhurst (“clearance” work like this was not scheduled to begin until next year). The resistance over the next week was sometimes shambolic, always peaceful, and occasionally heroic. Six tree defenders were arrested (2 on Saturday, 4 on Monday), and Day 8 closed with activists camping overnight in the trees near Adam’s farm.
Activists are now calling on people to help them hold the site near Adam’s farm.
What follows is a brief summary of the story so far.
Friday 14 December 2012
Anti-road protestors from Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill were joined by others from Eastbourne, Brighton and London at dawn in the Combe Valley today to stop attempts to begin tree-felling for the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road. On a day of heavy rain and high winds, around 30 protestors successfully prevented any significant work taking place despite the presence in the valley of over 100 security guards, chainsaw operatives and other contractors.
The campaigners initially occupied trees at Adams Farm and successfully blockaded the access track for over 2 hours. The main contractors’ convoy from Sidley arrived en masse at Upper Wilting Farm mid-morning, and they proceeded on foot to attempt tree-cutting near Little Bog Wood. Protestors promptly moved into the woodland to mingle with the workers, making it impossible for any felling to occur.
The contractors then relocated by vehicle to Adams Farm and were again meet by protestors, some still occupying trees and others on the ground. There were lengthy periods of inactivity with the work crews and security seeming unclear what tactics to adopt. On only a few occasions were chainsaws or strimmers started but protestors immediately placed themselves in positions to stop them being used. The contractors and security guards retreated to their vans for lunch and at around 12.30 made a decision to abandon work for the day. Protestors remained on alert in the valley for a further 2 hours to ensure no further attempts were made.
Saturday 15 December 2012
Activists were able to stop some of the trees in Bexhill from being chopped down, though contractors were able to chainsaw quite a large a number there. There were two arrests – one for “aggravated trespass” (now charged and released), the second for not giving their name and address to a police officer (which they have no legal right to demand under most circumstances). No trees were felled at Adam’s farm however, which was also being defended.
Sunday 16 December
Trees continued to be felled in Bexhill at the back of the Leisure Centre (TN39 4HS), despite attempts to defend the trees. Chainsaws and security guards moved-in on trees nr Adam’s Farm with climbers, and one person locked-on to a contractors vehicle, significantly impeding their activities.
Monday 17 December
Tree-felling continued in Bexhill, with four activists occupying the trees in the morning / afternoon. All four were eventually removed from the trees and arrested. They were all released, the last one at 2am the next day! Fellow activists were outside Hastings police station to greet them, and the CHD are now arranging court support for them where appropriate.
Tuesday 18 December 2012
Tree-defenders were in action in Bexhill again where chainsaw-wielding contractors continued to fell trees. They attempted to enter the area but were ejected by security guards. Other sites have been monitored and do not appear to have been attacked yet.
Wednesday 19 December 2012
Work began in Sidley again on Wednesday (19.12.12) as security guards and their ubiquitous Harris fencing crept northwards up the disused railway, giving the chainsaw crews space to do their dirty work unobstructed by the small numbers of protestors present. One early bird protestor dropped by on the way to work and put anti-road posters up all along the hoardings by the A269 bridge.
Tree defenders maintained a presence across the valley, monitoring for signs of activity in the vicinity of Upper Wilting Farm, Adams Farm (where a small number of Environment Agency people were again at work on what’s believed to watercourse maintenance not related to road building), Acton’s Farm and Glover’s Farm. The valley remained just about passable on foot, with about 30 cm of standing water along the footpath in the valley bottom near Adam’s Farm.
Sadly, reconnaissance revealed extensive tree-felling in the copse between Acton’s Farm and Glover’s Farm at map ref TQ748099, about 100m to the left of the footpath as you walk towards Acton’s Farm from Sidley. This work looked like it was done a few days earlier. The contractors cut down around 30 larger trees within the copse but left a screen of surrounding smaller trees to shield their work from view. A few larger trees still remained in the copse on the North side.
Thursday 20 December 2012
Tree defenders were out again in Sidley on Thursday and managed to halt the felling of a number of trees along the disused railway near Glovers bridge. In the early hours two protestors with climbing gear scaled 20ft into an overhanging ash tree and hastily erected a tarpaulin to provide shelter from the rain. Local supporters were also present on the bridge and eventually managed to get chocolates and hot water to the tree-sitters.
The occupied tree and a number of others surrounding it were spared the teeth of the chainsaws, although many significant trees further along the route were felled as the chainsaw gangs and their security detail moved North into the Combe Haven valley. The protestors outlasted the work crews and even managed to rustle up a hot meal at lunch – something the security guard standing on guard nearby for 3 hours in the pouring rain could only envy.
Friday 21 December
The day began with the re-occupation of the trees in Sidley that were successfully defended the previous day. Security and police then made a major move on the trees near Adam’s farm in Crowhurst, felling some near the barns there, and reportedly preventing access along the footpaths.
However, tree defenders were still able to occupy key trees along the line of the old disused railway cutting there, building tree houses. Police tell one of those occupying the trees that they will bring him mince pies if he’s still there in the morning. The day ended with security guards leaving, amid rumors that they may have knocked off now until the New Year, and activists camping out overnight in and around the trees.
Resistance to the road also made the front pages of the three local papers: