By the end of November 1992, work to excavate the huge cutting though Twyford Down had resulted in the clearance of flower-rich turf and trees across most of the Down and on the water meadows below.
The only the very top of the hill remained, protected by the camp huddled on the ancient Donags trackways.
On Wednesday the 9th of December, just before sunrise, the destruction of the Dongas trackways began. The unprecedented use of security guards, clad from head to foot in fluorescent yellow clothing gave the day its name – Yellow Wednesday.
David Bellamy, present for part of the day, later described the brutality of the eviction as “the worst violence I have witnessed against environmentalists anywhere in the world”.
Katy Andrews remembered:
Outnumbered? It was bloody hopeless and I think although we couldn’t admit it, we realised it. They had four minders assigned to mark each protestor, men at every gateway and entrance, a line of men along the top of the Dongas, men to guard each earth-moving machine and more to spare.
Several protestors got through the main cordon and onto and under the machine. But while we were doing this, the contractor’s subbies ran a bulldozer and two low-loaders around us at great speed and almost unnoticed across the trench, crashing through our fence onto the Dongas…for three hours we stood in front of shrubs, lay down or threw ourselves in front of bulldozers and earth-movers.
By 11.30, when the press and TV arrived, the precious turfed area of the Dongas SSSI was surrounded by a two-tiered fence of coiled barbed wire and the security men were everywhere.
The following days saw police brought in to carry on the eviction and ensure the removal of trees, bushes and turf. Consequently, these days became known as Black Thursday and Black Friday. A few people clung onto the final handful of trees, until these too were removed.
On Thursday, there was razor wire on top of the barbed wire and every time we tried to break through, even if we were successful, security guards would almost immediately catch us and forcibly remove us from the areas. Attention centred on the gate, where flatbed lorries were coming in and out, loaded up with the turf. We tried to take it off and put it somewhere safe.
It was hard to sleep with the security lights and generators only a few feet away. On Friday, I woke to find that all of the turf had been removed. The Bulldozers levelled the wood and the Dongas to bare chalk: three thousand years of history, destroyed in just three hours. They set fire to the green wood they had just smashed: huge clouds of smoke totally surrounded the tree-sitters … defending the remaining trees.
By the weekend after the eviction, the Dongas Tribe was homeless, injured and traumatised; the precious turf of the Down, rich with rare flowers, had been either turned to mud by machines or stripped off in an attempt to re-locate it nearby.
Diggers & security guards on the dongas, 9/12/92. Photo A Weekes.
Got an “Arooga” and headed from Somerset to the down, woke up the next morning to yellow jackets. Got arrested in first hour for trying to climb a heap of bulldozed hawthorn they were trying to set light to. 24 hours inside, came back to chalk white, surreal, devastating
Thanks for that Laugh – that is a a tale both sad and heroic.
correction, I saw the eclipse that night so reckon I must’ve got back to the down and the white chalk around sunset, (overnighter must’ve been another time?)
Why can’t we learn? Even more environmental carnage happening today in West London Colne Valley. The HS2 land clearance is wider and more brutal than anything a previous road or railway line caused. Please come to Harvil Road Wildlife Protection Camp UB9 6Jn and protect our water resources and nature reserves from utter destruction by the UK Government in 2018 and 2019.