It’s not yet 4pm but the sun is setting at Combe Haven. As it sinks below the winter landscape, its last rays illuminate the scene unfolding in the trees overhead.
Half a dozen young men and women, their faces mostly concealed by scarves, are perched on the branches of a big, old oak tree, securing the ropes that support a wooden platform they have suspended between it and another oak. They are discussing how best to hang an enormous net that has been donated by the fishing fleet at Hastings a few miles away. This will make a giant hammock, intended for those not comfortable in tree houses high above the ground.
Indiana (not her real name), a veteran of roads protests dating back to the early 1990s, says she may sleep in the net tonight. Her grandfather was a fisherman at Hastings and it was she who went to ask for it. Wrapped around the trunks and branches, the braided polypropylene can also impede the chainsaws, causing them to snag.
In a clearing on the other side of a waist-high barricade made of branches, a dozen men in hard hats and high-visibility jackets look on. They are specialist contractors working as high-court enforcement officers, figuring out how they will forcibly evict the protesters in the days or weeks ahead. Another dozen or so activists and legal observers are on the ground, chatting and making tea on a fire. As they watch their best climber clambering 50ft up, they explain how the platform has been positioned high in the crown of the tree so they cannot be approached and plucked out from above.
This is what protesters have dubbed the second battle of Hastings. Continue reading