• Combe Haven

    So finally the latest edition of Nine Miles is ready and, ordinarily, it would seem an appropriate time to reflect on what has happened since – since both the events the book describes and since its first edition saw the light of day six years ago. Ordinarily I could bang about not just the roads themselves but about the things about those campaigns that were always about more than fighting infrastructure, about much more than any ‘anti’ sentiment.

    And in a better world, I probably would. Only there are a few complications here, a few inconvenient truths in that the road campaigns have not just faded to some rosy afterglow, a happy ever after in our world of conscientious travel plans, enlightened minds in government and a sad and disbelieving headshake from the mandarins acknowledging with a sense of rueful relief how things once were out of date, light shed upon them from a universal stance where reports have been paid heed to and now we all know better in our new green post-millennial utopia.

    The complication is that we seemed to hit a snake on the board and now born-again Tories are flexing their muscles with their new round of zombie roads and people are having to put themselves on the line just to state that this is simply not just wrong but amounts to a betrayal of all future generations and a bankruptcy of vision over transport where the mere convenient reign supreme and the population is stuck fast to the perceived view that life behind a wheel amounts to some kind of archaic birthright, costs of all kind crammed up the ministerial exhaust.

    This week in the countryside around Crowhurst, Hastings and Bexhill, people are fighting tooth and nail to protect the trees remaining on the route of the link road planned; a £100 million white elephant that flies in the face of cuts to other services. The County Council had something of the initiative it’s true by starting clearance work before anticipated though even then a band of protestors were out to meet them at dawn and have been waging a piecemeal, fluid contest to protect the trees still standing. The situation changes day to day and all those who can are being called to drop whatever else is happening and get there to join them as soon as they can.

    Which really just blows out about every fined tuned thing I had to say about Newbury and those days which now seem almost black and white with the passage of time and miles away from a dawning day to day reality of adrenaline and muted aggravation, a landscape on the line and people prepared to put themselves through it for the sense of both an immediate love for the land and the hope for a future delivered from a tide of tyres whose curtailment of use represents one of the easiest things we can do as a culture to moderate our impact on the earth.

    The atrophy we face is that of a culture and a dominant party calling time on environmental considerations as if they were just dreams that hold no currency amid business deals and desperate deals that claim to give us all our only chance to keep the economy afloat. If we are prepared as a culture to accept that cars and their use are intractable facts of day to day life, if we let ourselves be seduced by the inroads of convenience so that an air conditioned drive where we are cushioned from the impact that we have, where we are so out kilter with what should be our rightful place on the earth we do not even feel the loss of places like Combe Haven we will have become alienated to a possibly fatal degree to that which sustains us: our home.

    So I’ll spare you the platitudes about what happened all those years ago and about what the memory of those times can mean, or about the fallout or about what happened to me personally there. The movement then was never a particularly intellectual or abstract thing and attempts to render it so were always treated with suspicion and all too often were designed to render it complicit with some wider scheme than simply people acting on their heart’s calling. The genius the movement held lay largely in its simplicity when all else appeared to have failed – direct action and just doing it. That is what is being played out in Combe Haven now: they need all the help we can give.



The posts here originally grew from a website that was set up to advertise a book that describes things a long time ago. That book was always intended to address more than any single issue, even if it encompassed that as well.

At its broadest, I hoped it could help express how things can be when anyone of us acts on behalf of the environment, of their community, of our collective future itself. It was informed by far more than simply the times it describes; it was an attempt to articulate a feeling that has carried on and grown and means more than just a narrow 'us and them'.

I'm mainly working on other writing at the moment but thought there was probably something to be said for keeping these posts online while the issues they deal with remain relevant. I hope you find something on these pages that proves of interest or use as we all rise to meet the new times.

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