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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Spirit of Newbury lives on
As a teenager Nik Barry joined the fight to try to stop the Newbury Bypass cutting a swathe through woodland he'd played in as a child. A month ago he took to the trees once more, to protect Binsted Wood in west Sussex.

Photo by Aaron St Clair, The Argus Brighton
Nik Barry (second from right) at the Binsted Wood protest camp
When I heard that road building was back on the agenda, I had a look on the internet and noticed that the Arundel bypass went through ancient woodland. So I made my way down from Wales.

It's very beautiful, with really old beech and oak trees. Binsted Wood is about a mile from Arundel Castle, and because it is ancient woodland, there's no grass on the floor - instead it's a bluebell wood, although obviously the flowers aren't out at the moment.

We're celebrating now as the Transport Secretary has just rejected the proposed bypass because of the environmental impact. It's quite a victory - if we hadn't been here, the bypass might not have got the opposition it did.

In the month I was in the camp, numbers slowly picked up until there was about 15 to 25 people staying each night. A lot of the locals came to visit during the day too, bringing us food, wood for the tree houses and tarpaulins.

Picture courtesy of FreeFoto.com
The wood is near Arundel Castle
The camp will probably be dismantled over the next couple of days, but it's not the end of the fight. Some people might stick around to see if they come up with any other schemes - this was, after all, the third road that would have gone through the wood.

I'll also check out which roads did get the green light. If any of them are in environmentally sensitive areas, I might go there or else help try to keep GM crops out of Wales.

Blighted landscape

I got involved in Arundel because I saw what the bypass did to my hometown. I used to live two miles from what is now the Newbury bypass.

NEWBURY PROTESTS
Newbury protester being removed from site
I did lock-ons under the trees where we had to be dug out with road diggers - it was all a bit scary

I took to the treetops in desperation when it was being built, and also did lock-ons under the trees where we had to be dug out with road diggers. I was very new to protesting then and it was all a bit scary really.

I went back to Newbury about two months ago - it's turned into a big lump of concrete.

One of the woods the road goes through now has planning permission and they're selling plots, which proves that whatever gets promised, your woodland will be lost. So you've got to make a stand like we did at Arundel.

Apolitical slumber ends

After Newbury I finished my engineering apprenticeship and went to work, but now I've changed career - I'm at university studying social care.

Nik Barry
At 25, Nik is a veteran protester
I got back into direct action this year because I couldn't believe the government wanted us to go to war. I spent eight weeks at the protest camp outside RAF Fairford, where I earned the nickname Sarge for my habit of wearing an Army poncho in the rain. Yet I'm the least military person there is.

After the war I realised that all the road schemes that got cancelled six years ago were going back through. People are more willing to stand up for their beliefs after the Iraq war - that seems to have woken people up. So I expect to see more protest camps against roads going through the countryside.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

I agree with Nik's comment about Newbury being a lump of concrete now! I am Newbury born and bred, but moved out over a year ago. Newbury has long since lost its community spirit, beauty and charm. The bypass has not solved the traffic problems, just added another road!
C, ex-Newbury, UK

I moved to Newbury 6 years ago before the bypass opened. Before the road opened, I developed a persistent cough which has now gone. The roads through the town are a lot quieter than they used to be. Certainly they're still busy, but Newbury is a thriving town - now it's a town without a queue of lorries through the middle of it.
Sam, Newbury

Rumour has it that the Arundel scheme was actually canned because it would have left a much larger and more expensive bottle neck on the A27 at Worthing. If the government were able to think strategically and managed to put the bypasses into Arundel and Worthing and were bold enough to extend the dual carriageway from Lewis to Ashford, then it would relieve 20% of traffic on the M25. It does seem a bit of an own goal that some trees are saved but the air quality is destroyed by cars in traffic jams.
Alistair, Worthing, UK

His last comment about people willing to stand-up for their beliefs. Yet again means a minority will make things more difficult for the majority.
Tony, UK

As a West Sussex resident I would like to thank Nik and all his fellow protesters for keeping the bulldozers at bay. The woods and water meadows around Arundel are too beautiful to ever be ruined by yet another motorway. So are the South Downs at Worthing - that's why they're being made into a national park.
Paul, West Sussex, UK

Well done for highlighting the problem of building roads through our rare ancient woodland. I used to live near Arundel and it's a lovely area. When is it going to be realised that building more roads will not ease the congestion problem. Need more environmentalists like you and me!
Carol, UK

We don't object to protesters - it's the way they protest, making it look an eye sore and expecting everybody to participate. People can protest without having to take part in sit-in or marches and rebelling.
Sam, England

Perhaps when local people are next stuck in traffic jam pondering over why their council tax has gone up, they'll think of the excellent work Nik has done. Thousands of pounds written off, not to mention all that valuable police time spent in the forests... what a hero.
Stuart, Glos

The threat of environmental destruction never goes away, does it? Will the government ever try to get to the root of a problem, rather than opt for a quick-fix, short-term solution?
Fi Stephens, UK

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