The fight to save our ancient woodland. Anti-HS2 resistance of Jones’ Hill Wood enters day 6

Activists and campaigners have managed to resist the eviction of Jones’ Hill Wood in Buckinghamshire for six days. The ancient woodland is one of 20 that have been identified as targets for clearance by HS2 from October 1st. Legal teams and campaigners have highlighted the felling in Jones’ Hill Woods to be illegal.

As of today around eight activists, including veteran environmental activist Swampy, have vowed to stay in the trees despite building pressure from the National Eviction Team (NET), dwindling supplies and the continuing storm that has battered England over the last five days.  They are supported by many campaigners and local residents on the ground.

Over the last week, campaigners have witnessed a large show of force and violence from employees of the NET, who are working on behalf of The Secretary of State for Transport. This has included the removal and arrest of several activists, who have been occupying tree houses for several months. The activists have highlighted a number of potentially dangerous or life threatening situations that have occurred and shared through social media. This includes an incident where a female activist’s rope was cut whilst she was attached between two trees at approximately 60ft, which led to her falling around 10ft before landing in a cherry picker. She was then violently restrained and arrested on a false allegation of assault. Despite these ongoing incidents, a growing number of campaigners have been joining the fight at Jones’ Hill Wood near Wendover, Buckinghamshire.

A group of activists smiling in the trees.
Finding joy despite the risk of violence and eviction from the NET.

The group who have been occupying Jones’ Hill Wood have declared part of their intention is to highlight the loss of habitat, and irreversible damage being done by HS2 across the line. The Stop HS2 campaign has had several attempts to halt the work through legal challenges. The latest of these comes from a collaboration of campaigners who have identified rare Barbastrelle bats roosting in Jones’ Hill Wood, and Lawyers for Nature, who yesterday released the following statement on Facebook:

“The scenes of destruction as HS2 begins to start felling woodlands along the route are heartbreaking. Over the last 24 hours, we’ve been working with independent ecologists who have recorded evidence of rare Barbastelle bats in Jones Hill Woods near Wendover. Further enquiries suggest that HS2 does not have a license from Natural England to disturb bats at the site, or to damage or destroy their roosts. Therefore, prima facie, it would spread that further work and/or felling at Jones Hill is illegal. We have helped to draft letters to both Natural England and HS2 pointing out the legal position and requesting that works at the site are halted pending further investigation into the existence of bats and bat roosts at the woods. We hope that HS2 will respect and obey the law, and that if not, Natural England will enforce it. If not however, we need to bring public pressure to stop wildlife crimes being committed by way of the destruction of this woodland.”

Despite the threat of violence and arrests, the remaining activists defending the trees within the threatened land are resolved to stay and they accept any and all consequences of their actions. This is our last opportunity to press pause before it is too late – irreversible damage to the ecosystem and landscape has already taken place.

Steve Masters, West Berkshire District councillor, who was removed from a treehouse on Friday but managed to return and climb a 60ft Beech tree this morning, said, “I am a public official and I have followed a path of public service throughout my life. This began 34 years ago when I joined the Royal Air Force. I swore to protect my fellow citizens then and now as we face the greatest challenge in climate change I am duty bound to continue to protect the people of this country and the world. I am willing to be arrested and ultimately imprisoned in order to highlight the catastrophic damage HS2 will do to our natural environment. Our Prime minister pledged to protect the biodiversity of the planet while at the same time continuing to support this destructive and unnecessary rail link. As the chainsaws whine around me this morning I am resolute and determined to fight for a future fit for my grandchildren.”

Satchel said from the ‘bean can’ tree house: “I am here because I cannot sit at home anymore and be angry about the global chaos that has presided over my lifetime without taking direct action. This global chaos has been caused by government, corporate greed and corruption, they are always putting profit before people and planet. I am compelled today and every day to take direct action against the government and their agents and the bloated multinational corporations due to their inaction to ease the suffering and oppression of our global community.”

The tops of trees, likely taken from the top of a tree.
A view from the trees. The ancient woodland due to be felled by HS2.

Campaigners are calling on the government to scrap the reckless, and financially and environmentally unaffordable High Speed Rail project immediately.

Photo credit @taltakingpics

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