Landed Power

I’m sat in a bird hide, looking out over the water at Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve. A sanctuary which Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, the stewards of this land, describe as “one of the jewels in the crown of our nature reserves”.

While watching the water fowl take off and land and the dragonflies lay their eggs on the shimmering surface, I’m almost at peace, if it weren’t for the road behind me and the knowledge that hidden just behind the treeline HS2 contractors are ready and waiting to bring more destruction to this land… For an access road to the trainline. The other side of the boundary is privately owned.

This land is part of the 8% of land the public legally have access to in England. Such a pathetic amount is afforded us by the Right To Roam and only 6% of that is ‘open access’, where you are not required to stick to the thin, tendril-like rights of way.

I am of this land, just as much as you, wherever your place of birth and current residence, whatever your ancestors or financial status. We may be different in that I was born in the countryside and have roved my whole life, with scant regard for fences, walls and the (currently) false ‘Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted’ signs that litter the land.

The vast majority of us are excluded from the very foundation of our health and existence. We are told time and again to lead more active, healthier lives, while the most fundamental way (being outdoors) to do so is continuously taken from us. Being in nature can boost activity of our white blood cells that help fight infection and tumor cells. It also helps lower our blood pressure and reduce stress. Just one hour in the woods every week improves our immune system immensely. 

For a millennia and more our rights to the land have been stolen in fits, starts, landslides and the occasional reforms.

The Norman conquest taking land and redefining the subsistence hunting by poor folk as poaching; the centuries of enclosure and clearance; the repossessions to fuel the war and capital machines; the privatisations of Thatcher’s tyranny, to give the faintest lip service to a long and complex history of fuckery.

This is currently peddled in the form of the changes to planning regulations so we can feed the economy and our capitalist system. The HS2 hybrid bills allow the government, the HS2 exec and their contractors to take whatever land they like, through Compulsory purchase and Temporary Possession Orders, and do with it as they please. Disregarding existing regulation and legislation, environmental and social protections, regardless of how far from the trainline that land lies. (I’ve heard of lakes in Rugby and Kent that will be filled with the spoil from the tunnelling operations.) Damaging and destroying 108 ancient woodlands, 33 sites of special interest, 693 Local Wildlife Sites and 21 Local Nature Reserves, such as this, which provide so much for those Humans who visit; closing well used rights of way with no notice, diversion or apology.

So I offer no apology for my scant regard, my disdain for the owning classes whining of their right to property being infringed upon. Those who are, and have been, always protected and elevated by the laws of this land.

The true law of the land is connection, interconnection of ALL things that of this land.

The centuries long work of severing and obscuring this connection, to keep us from our power, to keep us caged, continues. The work of convincing us to accept that Nature is not for us. That to get our fix we need to spend money from the back of a boat or 4×4, through the ticket gates of zoos, the crystalline pixels of your screen. And not to stop wherever you’re at and notice the weeds opening cracks in concrete, the birds roaming where they will, the breath in your lungs, the sheer tenacity of life this land yearns to support.

They don’t want you to know. So they continue.

Parliament are soon to debate changing trespass from a civil to criminal matter, an agenda pushed by this Tory government.

Further exclusions and discouragement to those who already feel disconnected and unwelcome.

This vicious attack on our liberties is being framed as a way to manage the Travelling communities, something most police institutions have declared unnecessary and counterproductive. Those who have more claim than most of us to being indigenous to this land, yet who don’t go a day without being persecuted.

It touches all of us, even the middle class rambler who in misreading a map or losing GPS and self, wandering off the beaten path will hold much more fear of being chased by those who claim to protect and serve them.

Though far more affected are BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of colour), who are already four times less likely than white folk to have access to outdoor spaces. No wonder, the obscene area of land hidden behind the walls of stately homes and country estates is part of the fabric of imperialistic colonization. Monuments to white supremacy. Land is reserved for the oppressors of race and class.

This is also an affront to our rights to have our voices heard, to hold the state to account. The right to protest, to occupy land in resistance to the many undemocratic agendas at play, clearly squared up to.

Free range people living on the land in places like this nature reserve, a large swathe of which will be cleared for an access to road to a unfit for purpose trainline, which the vast majority of people don’t know about, don’t want and certainly won’t benefit from.

Free range people who see injustice and can’t turn a blind eye will be further persecuted.

Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted.

Though probably not Chappy in the spiffing red jacket, on the dappled grey who just jumped fences, through land they have no more rights to than the rest of us, on their perfectly legal business. 

Land is power. So you’ll have none.

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