The Dragon Journal: Issue 2
You can’t always get what you want -
You get what you need
by April Richardson
Remember many years ago when the Chunnel Rail Link was first proposed, to run through the middle of Kent? Myself, Ed, John, Barry & Anne, Steph and whoever else was around at the time were very active at the time; trying to network the information that many special sites like Kits Coty, the White Horse Stone etc. were quite literally in danger of being railroaded. We also carried out a number of ceremonies to protect and enliven these sacred places and encouraged others to do so. I remember that this was happening round about the same time that hundreds of us had already been involved in Twyford Down.
I was disappointed that the great ‘sink the link‘ campaign sunk without a trace, with ‘oh but trains are more ecologically sound, you’ll never get anyone to protest against a railway’… and then the search and rescue archaeologists moved in, dug holes and sealed off anything interesting.
Well we didn’t stop the railway. We realised that when myself & Ed, with a small group of pixies arrived in the dark one night. What had appeared on the landscape looked like something out of the ‘X-Files‘: Floodlit towers, heavy fencing, security gates and heavy plant machinery had appeared overnight like mushrooms.
That was it. Blue Circle extracted all the chalk from under the North Downs, directly beneath a Roman Temple to Diana. A huge gaping hole opened up next to the White Horse Stone and several outlying stones fell into it unceremoniously, behind a barbed wire fence, dislocated from their original longbarrow. The landscape has been radically altered forever, tonnes and tonnes of material have been shifted. A cutting appeared where there had been a gentle, sloping valley and an artificial hill was lumped up on top of the landscape, where there had been none.
I could have cried, in fact I did, and I felt completely gutted. Many of us had built up a strong relationship with this landscape, carrying out many magical workings on the serpentine chalk hills under the dark yew trees. The woods were even used as an emergency campsite for a London Pagan conference on one occasion. We all sat around a campfire singing & drumming until dawn.
But one thing I could never get used to was waking up to the sound of trial bikes screaming through the woods, how did they get away with it?
The scar on the side of the hill where these people had eroded away all the top soil could be seen for miles around. The massive figure of eight appeared like some abstract chalk giant as you drove down the M2/M20. The problem had been going on for years and Kent Council appeared to be powerless to do anything. The woods stank of oil and petrol fumes and the peace and tranquillity was ripped asunder by the sound of 2-stroke engines. Trialbike-riders left behind them a wake of broken glass, twisted metal, rubbish and pollution. And to make matters worse, flytippers had also been using the area regularly. And this was all in an area of outstanding natural beauty of ancient yew wood, with a thriving habitat of nightingales, badgers, owls, pheasants etc.
Well what’s the upside? We were in for a bit of a surprise this spring when we followed the path up to the top of the hill to visit the bluebells. Out in the fairy garden someone had been very busy. Over the last 2 years a lot of conservation work has been done and a lot of money has been spent. Fences have gone up and sheep have been put on the side of the hills, previously occupied by trialbike-riders. Ditches have been dug next to the pilgrims way trackway and hedgerow trees have been planted along its length. All the rubbish from flytipping has been cleared in a massive clean up operation. There is now a big fence across the pilgrims way at each end, denying access to vehicles; but not preventing walkers. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to keep bikes and flytippers out. And there is a notice next to the fence that says anyone caught riding a bike up there will be fined £200 (flytipping £1000).
Hooray! The fairy garden is now a lot happier since the demise of the b*st*rds on bikes and the flytippers! And so are we. It is some consolation that something good has come out of the sacrifice made in the land overlooked by the White Horse Stone, the money for conservation work had obviously come from some pay off from the railway and Blue Circle. It is also satisfying to think that the eco-magic work that was carried out did eventually manifest, but not necessarily in the way that you would expect. So you can’t always get what you want, you get what you need!
© April Richardson 1/5/03