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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Pro-hunt beacons lit up
beacon
A beacon burns in Whittingdon, near Worcester
Fire crews across southern England were alerted to more than 50 blazes on Monday night which turned out to be beacons lit by countryside campaigners.

The fires are part of the Countryside Alliance's "summer of discontent" aimed at alerting the government to growing anger in rural communities.

The organisers said they had registered each of the 2,800 bonfires across the countryside with the fire service.

But brigades across Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Sussex and Devon were swamped with calls from concerned residents.

Protest march

An 8ft fake beacon which glowed with red lights, silk flames and smoke effects was also erected in the heart of Westminster in Parliament Square.

The action is set to culminate in a massive march in London on Sunday, which is expected to attract around 200,000 people.

Boarders from the prestigious Eton and Harrow public schools, are being allowed to take part in the march, according to The Times newspaper.


We are bringing a message to parliament

Jill Grieve, Countryside Alliance

However, the Prince of Wales' office said Prince Harry - a pupil at Eton - would not be attending.

At the heart of the issue is the uncertainty surrounding the future of fox hunting.

The government is undergoing a six-month consultation process in an effort to draw up legislation.

Earlier in the year, the House of Commons voted for an outright ban on hunting, while the House of Lords voted for hunting to continue under licence.

Real Policies

Jill Grieve, spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, said: "We are bringing a message to parliament that the countryside is in trouble and needs help and we should be listened to.

Hunt (PA)
Moves to ban hunting in England and Wales are in progress

"We will listen to whoever is in parliament, whoever is in power, as long as they have rational real policies which they consult the countryside on.

"We are the ones who are affected."

More than 2,000 coaches have already been organised to bring demonstrators to London from all over the UK.

However, concerns have been raised about a minority who are thought to be planning illegal disruption.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Charles Mann, Countryside Alliance
"All organisers had alerted their local fire brigades"

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12 Apr 02 | Politics
10 Sep 02 | Politics
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