Thu, 25 Feb 2016
20 years ago objections to the new road were gathering momentum
Twenty years ago this month the usually quiet town of Newbury featured almost daily in the national press and tv news. The A34 bypass western route had been approved, and construction was underway. Protestors gathered in force to object to the new road and the consequent destruction of woodland at Snelsmore Common and Pen Wood.
A huge demonstration was held at Snelsmore Common on 15 February 1996, which attracted thousands of people from all over the country, including quite a few famous faces.
Some of the younger protestors set up camps in the woods, and even dug an elaborate system of tunnels to hamper the use of heavy machinery. Local protestor Daniel Hooper earned the nickname of “Swampy” for his apparent ability to live underground, badger-like. When the main tunnel was discovered by the police in March, expert tuneller Pete Faulding, the man tasked with ensuring no-one was still in it, was highly impressed by its technical standard. He declared “It’s a great tunnel they have built and it has been a challenge exploring it. It’s like something out of the Second World War”.
Some of the protestors set up camp in the tree-tops, making it a challenge for the tree-cutters to cut down the trees. Druids asserted their ancient rights. A pantomime cow appeared at Newbury Police Station, charged with aggravated trespass. Liquids were thrown and insults traded. Police were deployed in numbers, private security guards were recruited, and a game of cat and mouse played out in the nation’s press and on their tv screens.
The new road was built eventually; it opened in the summer of 1998 . But not without a fight.
Opinions vary as to how much it improved West Berkshire’s overall traffic situation in general, and Newbury in particular. What do you think?
Click through our gallery of photographs. Maybe you were there? Share your memories with us.