once upon a late winter day

once upon a late winter day, over several hills and many valleys, there was a curlew. this large, rotund brown bird with its long thin beak had a flea. and that flea told me about what had happened at this valley in the north east of england.

the flea told me the clouds were heavy and full of ice, they swept slowly over the skies and sighed out with waves of snow, falling most days.

you could find tracks from many animals in this valley; hares and badgers and deer. there wasnt often many people in these valleys in the cold winter months, although you would get people walking with their dog friends, a few regulars who would scrutinise particular plants and trees and seemed to look for secrets the land might tell them, and some familiar faces that the curlew had seen over several decades. for 30 years the valley had had planning applications for opencast mining but each time it got rejected.

then some people with high vis and suits and neat haircuts (or no hair) had come to check it out. they had been before, since 2014, a couple of times, but never done much work. just mooched around with clipboards. this winter, just before spring, in several feet of snow they came and cut down all the old hawthorn trees that had been living for over a hundred years. they left the trees petrified in the cold with their roots displayed to the grey sun.

then lots more humans appeared. they brought wood from the forest and built benders. they burnt wood to keep warm. they started climbing this tree that had been too big to cut down with the hawthorns and building something up there.

then weeks passed. structures would pop up and sometimes down. there was a mass move to the other side of the barbed wire fence, from the valley to the grass verge of the A692. what was a few angry insults yelled each day became quite a frequent chorus to both the days and nights. more and more people would come to the camp in ebbs and flows. lots of cars would stop and drop off hot food, or palletts, or crates of beer.

since mid march, there were bucket traps put in the ground to try and trap a great crested newt, a protected species under EU law. for a month, many smooth newts waltzed into the wall and fell into the buckets, but carol the great crested newt appeared on april 17th. the humans were joyous.

2 days later, it was the hottest and sunniest day of the year so far, where it seemed suddenly winter had receeded and spring – which had barely appeared – had already melted away. lots of middle aged men in high vis and hard hats trundled along the valley at the early call of 6.20am and began shouting. it was an eviction. the humans who had lived in the valley and on the verge for 6 weeks took up their positions and were pressure pointed and shouted at by the lumbering bailiffs. the high vis wearers tried to pull them out of lock ons and intimidate them. a few police humans stood around watching all day but did little else. “have you seen many lock ons before?” said a human clipped onto a wheelie bin full of concrete and surprises. “a what?” said the man in hi vis. “a lock on. you know, this thing we’re clipped onto.” // “no… i’ve never seen one of these things before.” and then they kept at it with the power tools they use in their usual day jobs.

all the while, diggers were driven through the camp, a couple of metres from tunnels with people inside, and one digging machine was even used to pull out a lock-on that had been semi submersed into the ground… with someones arm, and the rest of their body, still attached to it.

the wooden structures that had shared many stories and conversations and dreams and a few arguments and lots of vegan scran and a few repairs over the weeks were destroyed within a few hours by the machines.

after 2 days, the last human was taken out of the treehouse, and this concluded the eviction. 3 people had escaped in the night under the careful watch of security, and 7 had been arrested.

after this point, more and more machines and shipping containers and fences were brought onto the valley and humans in uniforms patrolled day and night.

at the gates, lock-ons started re-appearing. sometimes the security would try and drag them away. police humans mostly seemed quite confused by these devices. they werent sure what to do and mostly waited for the people to unlock. in early june they called some fire personnel to use their hi-tech equipment to cut them out. it seemed the specialist cutting teams would not come to this place and instead the local authoritative humans blamed the people in lock ons for the use of resources by authoritative humans to protect the ecocide in the valley.

after june 3rd, and after a 22 hour lock on, banks mining company had failed to build their access road, a requirement of their planning permission. they had started stripping the soil anyway and commencing the degradation of the living parts of the land. the pond home to carol and many other newts was drained and then destroyed in may. the swathes of gorse and several old trees are gone. no ground nesting birds can live there anymore, and the curlews have had to find somewhere else to live or die. now the ground has all been turned upside down, their diggers guard the haul and they are piling up the coal they have dug up and waiting to take it away to burn.