Runnymede Eco-Village is not on National Trust land!

david bangs dave.bangs at
Sun Sep 23 23:30:10 BST 2012

I am pleased that the 'diggers' have moved their tents off the National Trust land.

Can they reassure us that they have not taken part in any woodland work on the NT land either?...coppicing, removal of firewood or construction materials, and so on? 

ALL the NT's Runnymede property (bar the footprint of the small number of buildings) is designated either as SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Interest) or SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). 

Land rights activists or farming homesteaders should, of course, have an in-principle position of avoiding interfering with any such designated sites (except as part of wider defence campaigns, if such sites are threatened with damage or destruction).

The website extract below implies, in its statement that the campus land on which the diggers camp "has no management plan and is heavily populated by Sycamore and Ash trees" and is "fly-tipped with fridges and other items", that this land is OK for takeover for built residential structures, solar panels, crops and fruit trees, et al.

Indeed, they use the language of deprecation of this woodland that we meet all the time from much nastier developers...

Over the past two years I have written two management plans for ash and sycamore secondary urban fringe woods on chalky hill soil...Not so different, I expect, to the Coopers's Hill woods the diggers have appropriated. Neither of them had management plans before the ones I authored on behalf of a local community group.

I would be pretty cheesed off if a bunch of folk took those two woods over without any community proposal or consent.

The ‘diggers’ website extract gives us no idea of what is proposed for these Coopers Hill woods under the development proposals, or what the local community and council would like for their future...

The National Trust's Runnymede estate has multiple functions. It preserves a crucial part of the mortally damaged landscape of the Vale of the Thames. It is a nationally and locally important wildlife site. And it is a nationally important cultural and historical site, whose political interpretation is highly contestable. 

There is much for the left and land rights activists to do here...

-       The proposed Runnymede campus development may well contain the kind of crap that property developers dump on us elsewhere. The community needs a clear vision of social need and sustainability and a broad mobilisation to win against them.


-       It is a scandal that the Runnymede Nat Trust land has not been designated as statutory access land in perpetuity by the National Trust under the terms of the CROW Act (Countryside and Rights of Way Act). They have the power to do so, and such a crucial national site for the foundation of British civil liberties should be in the first rank of sites so designated. The National Trust is guilty of many of these omissions.


-       Runnymede is loaded with grossly inappropriate ruling class and imperialist symbolism...with its John F. Kennedy Memorial, its (allied) Air Forces Memorial and its Lutyens Lodges (him of the architecture of the Indian Raj and dozens of stockbrokers’ mansions). Even its memorial oaks are planted by royalty...which Magna Carta contested !!


-       We should indeed begin to think now about how the left can celebrate Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary, as it earlier successfully did the peasants revolt, and the 350th Diggers anniversary, for instance.


None of this currently needs a plotlands type take-over of semi-natural woodland, however, leave alone a provocation of an ambivalent National Trust, pushing them into a stance which could narrow the future opportunities for any left / labour movement commemoration on these historic meadows...



Dave Bangs



  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: no body 
  To: diggers350 at ; thelandisours at ; diggers at 
  Cc: david bangs 
  Sent: Sunday, September 23, 2012 5:13 PM
  Subject: Runnymede Eco-Village is not on National Trust land!

  From the website: 

  Seeing the wood for the trees.
  Following a recent BBC Surrey news website report entitled: ”Runnymede squatters: National Trust wins eviction order”,  you could be forgiven for thinking that the Digger’s 2012 Runnymede Eco-village was situated on land owned by the National Trust.  We are taking this opportunity to clarify that Runnymede Eco-Village is not situated on land owned by the National Trust. It is situated in the disused woodland of the ex-Brunel university Runnymede Campus owned by the private property developer: Orchid Runnymede.   The National Trust manages the Runnymede Estate which is next to the Runnymede Campus.

  We: a group of 15 people, have been living on the Runnymede Campus since June 15th.  The 65 acre campus lies in the Green Belt (although it is designated as a major development site) but since 2007 has lain largely unused.   Orchid Runnymede has been granted planning permission to build ‘luxury homes’, elderly care units and student accommodation on the site.  This plan has attracted concern and criticism from local residents (see this local news article from last year). The are of woodland where we are living has no management plan and is heavily populated by Sycamore and Ash trees.  In places it has been fly-tipped with fridges and other items.  Since our arrival we have established the Runnymede Eco-Village community here.  We’ve built a long house and other low impact structures made from the renewable timber provided by the Sycamore trees.  We’ve also dug a well (where we draw water from), setup solar panels for producing electricity and started to plant crops, and fruit trees.

  We have been evicted from the Runnymede Campus (by bailiffs paid for by Orchid Runnymede) three times .  The last eviction took place on July 12th (watch a video of the eviction here).  Each time we have been evicted we have been forcibly displaced along with our belongings onto National Trust land at Cooper’s Hill Woods (next to the Runnymede Campus).  After each eviction, we have returned back onto the Runnymede Campus.  The first time we were evicted on June 27th, we briefly camped on the border with the Runnymede Campus in Cooper’s Hill Woods, before moving our tents and equipment back onto the campus and carrying on with our eco-village on the disused land there. Partly due to complacency, we neglected to move 3 tents (two of which were unoccupied) which were just inside the border of the National Trust land).

  The border between the Runnymede Campus and National Trust land.
  It was the issue of the 3 tents on NT land which the NT used as the basis for their legal action where they sought and successfully obtained a ‘Vacant Possession Order’ (VPO) for the whole of the Runnymede Estate (over 200 acres) against Diggers2012 and Persons Unknown.  On receiving the court papers informing us of the legal action , we moved the tents and wrote to the National Trust to let them know that they had been moved.  The National Trust decided to carry on with the legal action and obtained a VPO.  This means the NT can evict anyone including Runnymede eco-villagers from camping on their land.
  As well as the VPO, the NT also attempted to obtain an injunction against Diggers2012 and Persons Unknown from ‘trespassing’ on the Runnymede Estate.  The Runnymede Estate is home to the Magna Carta monument: the site where King John is said to have sealed the Magna Carta in 1215 and is heralded as the birthplace of modern democracy.  This injunction if granted would have given the NT powers for forcibly remove any unwanted persons from assembling at Runnymede, taking part in a procession or just going for a walk.  At a court case on the 13th September in Slough County Court, following objections from three Runnymede Eco-Villagers, a district judge decided not to grant the injunction against ‘Persons Unknown’ (meaning it couldn’t be used against everyone) but adjourned the case and narrowed it to the three Runnymede Eco-Villagers (for more on this click here).
  As Runnymede Eco-Villagers, It is not and never has been our intention to setup an eco-village on the open National Trust land at Runnymede.  We recognise that the Runnymede Estate is well loved by visitors from near and far.  It is also looked after and managed successfully by both volunteers and paid NT workers.  It does not fall into our criteria of ‘disused land’.  On June 09th, we set out with the intention of finding disused land on which to start an eco-village and this is what we have done on the Runnymede Campus.

  The development of the Runnymede Campus appears to have stalled (something reported by local residents).  Whilst the site remains in a state of disuse, we intend to carry on living here as a community in a way that can be sustained indefinitely within the ecological capacity of this beautiful woodland environment.

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