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Last Updated: Monday, 12 April, 2004, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Joy as nuclear marchers hit base
By Hannah Bayman
BBC News Online

Aldermaston marchers with WMD banner
Hundreds of protesters joined the march from towns along the route
It has taken protesters more than 50 miles to turn the clock back nearly 50 years for a revival of the Easter anti-nuclear march to Aldermaston.

Some 400 had left London on Friday for the Berkshire village that is the heart of Britain's nuclear arms programme.

Hundreds more joined them over the epic four-day journey, retracing the steps of the first march to Aldermaston.

That was in 1958, when 10,000 people marched to demonstrate against Britain's first hydrogen bomb tests.

Giulia Gigliotti, one of this year's protesters, set off with marchers from London and then backtracked by train to join others from Winchester.

Her 25-strong group banged saucepans with wooden spoons as they walked the final few miles on Monday, along the A340 to the headquarters of the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

She told BBC News Online: "The best thing has been the support from drivers. They have been hooting and cheering and a couple actually stopped their cars to ask us what we're doing.

I had to persuade my mum and dad to let me come as they didn't think I would make it
Leela Levitt, aged 11

"It shows the time is right for this march - people are getting really fed up with the hypocrisy of the government.

"They killed 20,000 people looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we've got them here on our doorstep.

"Even after such a long way I'm in no pain at all - I feel really happy."

For 11-year-old Leela Levitt, from Southampton, setting off itself had been a battle - pleading with parents Malcolm and Latha to join them on the final leg.

Blur singer Damon Albarn joins marchers at Trafalgar Square
Blur's Damon Albarn and actor Corin Redgrave joined marchers

Leela told BBC News Online: "I had to persuade my mum and dad to let me come as they didn't think I would make it.

"I convinced them because we've been walking before in Norway in the mountains on holiday. So I told them I've done longer!

"I just really want the government to stop making the nuclear weapons. They're accusing Iraq and they're doing it themselves.

"My friends at school all think the war is bad as well."

Elsewhere marchers were spurred on with live music from samba bands and free chocolate Easter eggs from supporters along part of the route.

Meanwhile, those who had finally arrived at Aldermaston settled down to eat picnics, watching outdoor plays and speeches before circling the base in a final protest.

'Spirits high'

Daniel Franceschini, 50, who marched from London, told BBC News Online: "I'm in good shape and cycle a lot, but yesterday was hardest as it was the longest leg - 18 miles.

"Spirits were high though and it is brilliant to be here now.

"It's a much more dangerous world since the first march in 1958 and it proves that nuclear weapons haven't kept us safe."

For Reverend Hazel Barkham, 64, from Mere, Wiltshire, the visit to Aldermaston brought back memories of marching there in the 1950s.

She said: "I couldn't march because Easter Sunday is very busy for me at church, so I have driven down today with other people from the United Reform Church and the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

"There don't seem to be as many people here as at the early marches, but they are just as enthusiastic and dedicated.

"The atmosphere is the same - people are determined to get rid of these weapons."

'Why I'm back to ban the bomb'
11 Apr 04  |  Berkshire
Peace march plan 'irresponsible'
07 Apr 04  |  Berkshire

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