Two years ago in September 2010, Lizzy Williams, one of the founders of Stop HS2, walked the entire route of the proposed rail link proposed by High Speed 2. This report of part of her walk first published here.
On Sunday 12th September I was greeted at Brackley by a lively hoard of Turweston villagers and their guests from Radstone, Brackley and further afield. The Brackley Advertiser were there ready to photograph and large banners sporting “BEWARE OF TRAINS STOP HS2” draped vehicles and were waved from the A43 overbridge. We were a broad mix of people, men, women, lots of bubbling children, excited dogs and older well wishers coming out of their houses to join for a bit of the walk or simply to wish us well. All down to the concerted efforts of the Allen family from Turweston House to take action and Alan Smith of Global Mapping and his fantastic Brackley online social media hub. What a welcome to Buckinghamshire!
It was a beautiful sunny day and the atmosphere was mixed, some had just found out their homes and businesses had escaped the line due to the small route realignments whereas others were in total shock; devastated that it is now running through their homes, farms, premises and community. We walked the original proposed line as organised and promised to reconvene to walk the new route once the maps were available.
I left the Turweston possie at lunchtime continuing down the disused railway to Chetwode where I had been told more supporters awaited me. The railway became more and more wild and impassable as it has deliberately left as a wildlife corridor and haven by the various private landowners who own it. Tumble down bridges dot the route above the Great Ouse flood plain, a legacy to the lost industrial revolution of the steam train which demised many years ago now.
All I saw was all I have seen before me from Lichfield, huge swathes of agricultural land which will be lost if this proposal goes ahead. Beautiful landscapes, mainly unpolluted natural watercourses and flood plains, remnants of ancient woodland and medieval and Roman communities, villages sculptured by centuries of heritage and change, wild animals and birds; all that makes Britain Beautiful.
I arrived early at Chetwode and snuck a hour and half’s nap in a friends car before walking on to the fantastic welcome party laid on by Belinda Naylor. Fruit juice and biscuits were consumed with children laughing and us adults discussing how the walk was going and how we must fight HS2 however we can. Chetwode, a small hamlet gently scattered in the unspoilt countryside at the corner of Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire is spotted with “No HS2” here signs and it was passing into Buckinghamshire that I notice a substantial shift in the fighting spirit of those affected. Far more positive action has been displayed the closer I get to London and people are so angry at the Government in supporting HS2 they are rallying rapidly.
The following morning I started again in Chetwode along with a highly motivated group and freelance photographer to walk to Twyford. Farmers were keen to show us the way and at one point we had far too many people and pooches in a pick up riding the ridge and furrows like waves as we were taken to see the “RH” or Royal Hedge, purportedly mentioned in the Doomsday book which as you can guess faces imminent destruction. Arable and Dairy farmers whom others face ruin by HS2 handed us from one to the other as did the various equestrian yards affected. We were rescued from walking through slurried fields by considerate farmers and all helped us follow the route as far as practically possible by permitting us to cross their land.
Arriving in Twyford I was taken to see the Medieval Church. View Farm, a most outstanding listed building lovingly restored which can already here the High Speed train coming along the garden, yards from this ancient house and church. Whilst in the garden a chattering of children joined us from the local school. We sat on the grass of this beautiful house and I talked with the children about the High Speed Train and what they knew about if. Several of the children stated it came through their homes or parents place of work. They were remarkedly well informed and it was wonderful they found my stumblings along fascinating and to encourage them to study their environment now before it could change for ever. They and their teachers were a credit to their “outstanding” ofsted school.