I joined a crowd of 255 people yesterday morning at RSPB Arne. Together we walked at a slow pace, no one particularly knowing anyone. Despite this I felt an immediate sense of solidarity as we set off from the car park, quietly treading the heather path to Coombe Heath. We were the Hen Harrier Day South 2016 gathering – a jumbled ensemble of all ages and breeds, all demonstrating how difficult it is to dress for the weather when a Summer morning looks a bit grim.
The path was sandy, a colony of ants were moving from one side to the other. In turn we noticed the ants, changed gait, took larger steps. It gave us something to talk about, it broke the silence. Here we all were, individually moved by the cause snaking our way on a winding two lined track. It was not long before we were surrounded by landscape as far as you could see. To the south east darkly nested between the Purbeck Hills, Corfe Castle came into view. When the last of us caught up with the crowd we stood disorderly until the meeting was called to a start. An informal panel of guests took shape and we reluctantly drew in closer in order to hear them speak. They had no P.A system, they shouted. In essence we were a gathering of people on a richly hued heathland being shouted at by some other people. A curious sight. As we moved from speaker to speaker we heard very personal accounts from people dedicated to the cause. Their passionate individual narratives provided the reality behind the statistic, the research. Collaboratively they built the story, individually they all brought a different dimension. They represented perfect harmony, each approach to the same story complimenting the other. Some provided light with hope, some gave the shade with grim truths. The sorry plight of the Hen Harrier was told. Beauty destruction, greed, crime, absence, loss were the reoccurring themes. The crowd were absolutely silent. I don’t think I have ever attended a performance or meeting where this has been the case. I looked up into the expanse of sky and imagined that they the Hen Harriers were out there somewhere, fleeing persecution. The criminals were there too. In my minds eye the Hen Harriers were disorientated. Wanting to nest, feed, exist and caught between time and necessity, making split decisions that would cost them their lives, their entire species. I felt that fear. I glanced across the heath, the setting was exquisite. My eye was drawn once again to Corfe Castle I thought of the history of its slaughter and torture. All the while the speakers sending verbal arrows of grace and massacre.
I was no longer sure as to where to place this event it was more theatrical masterpiece, performance art or tableau then protest. It was multi-dimensional experience, sight sound and smell against a backdrop no stage designer could ever recreate. The concern of every person there was palpable and unifying. Towards the end the momentum of each account layered upon itself. As a form of appreciation my clapping was no longer sufficient. I felt that amongst others too. But we were British we have an innate fear of looking stupid in front of each other. I found myself clapping louder but inside I was cheering too. The pinnacle of the morning came when Iolo Williams spoke. I kid you not – the sun broke for the first time that morning from behind the clouds and he asked us all to close our eyes. We were now disciples of his strong familiar tones as he expertly described his first majestic experience of a Hen Harrier. Before long the meeting was over, all too soon we drifted back in my case in deep reflection.
To all the cynics, the perpetrators, the media trolls, the lawyers and the landed gentry you need to know, that amongst the growing support for the ban of driven grouse shooting there is a very potent force at play. Don’t mistake our polite clapping for inertia. This matter has moved us beyond reason.
Please join us sign the petition https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003