Weekley Hall Woods protesters storm grounds of stately home
Extinction Rebellion join the campaign to save Weekley Hall Woods
By Natalie Bloomer
Around 50 campaigners stormed the grounds of Boughton House yesterday in protest against the proposed warehouse development at Kettering’s Weekley Hall Woods.
The owner of the under-threat woodland is the Duke of Buccleuch who also owns the stately home where protesters gathered. Activists from the environmental group Extinction Rebellion joined local campaigners to hold a ‘family picnic’ on the estate before walking right up to the house.
“The picnic was in an area where there is some public access so we held a people’s assembly after, to decide if we should go any further,” Marly Lyman from Extinction Rebellion told NN Journal.
Security guards warned the group on several occasions not to pass certain parts of the grounds but they continued to walk towards the house where they then held some speeches.
“It was all very peaceful, just how we intended,” Lyman said.
“The police only showed up when we passed over a low fence and got quite close to the house, but we didn’t really communicate with them. There were a lot of local families involved and I wasn’t sure at first if they would want to go further but they all wanted to take the protest to the house. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.”
The Save Weekley Hall Woods campaign was launched in 2020 during lockdown and has attracted thousands of supporters with more than 20,000 people signing a petition against the plans. It also led to the election of three Green Party councillors in North Northamptonshire.
Green Party councillor Dez Dell was at the event and said he was pleased to be asked to speak.
“I believe it’s important to explore other means to get the message across to the Duke of Buccleuch that the people do not want our countryside destroyed for warehouses.
“From my point of view if the campaign to save Weekley Hall Wood doesn’t succeed in defeating the warehousing application through due planning process it may require methods of non-violent direct action and acts of peaceful civil disobedience - such as lying in front of bulldozers - to protect our wildflower meadow and woodland. I would appeal to the Duke to listen to the people of Kettering…there’s still a chance for him to do the right thing.”
Ellen Whitbread, a Northamptonshire photographer who took part in yesterday’s action said:
“Today was a beautiful and peaceful event with many families in attendance from lots of different local environmental campaigns. It’s clear that people are waking up to the fact that these are not isolated developments and that much of the green spaces we love are at risk by greedy profiteers.”
Kettering resident Mary Lloyd said:
“This meadow is so precious to our community for many, many reasons. As one of the ever-decreasing number of green spaces in the area, it is a source of respite for local families and sees thousands of visitors each week to enjoy its beauty.
“It played a vital role in maintaining good mental health throughout the Covid lockdown period and continues to pay dividends in physical and mental wellbeing. This is absolutely the worst place to build yet more empty warehousing.”
Extinction Rebellion participated in the action as part of its ‘Midlands Uprising’ campaign that aims to show a link between local issues and wider environmental concerns. This has included a protest against fossil fuels in Nottingham, a march to raise awareness of waterways pollution in Shrewsbury and a UK wide ‘banner drop’ on motorway bridges and busy junctions.
A spokesperson for the group said:
“This is the start of a transition from asking politely to taking peaceful direct action. We will continue preparing ourselves for such a time as when bulldozers and chainsaws are warming up. There is still plenty of time for Buccleuch to change the course of this development and to encourage any prospective tenants to consider one of the many existing empty warehouses in the county instead.
Read more about the Weekley Hall Woods campaign below