Mass cycle trespass on Dartmoor

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The Independent Online
HUNDREDS OF country folk joined mass environmental protests across southern England yesterday.

Protests on behalf of the environment, cyclists' rights and animal rights were held simultaneously in separate locations where protesters committed trespass to make their points.

Although there was no official link between the events, they raised common contentious issues affecting the countryside.

In Dartmoor, more than 200 cyclists pedalled on to the moor in a mass trespass to protest against a new bylaw that bans cycling over open moorland. The new rule allows cycling only on bridleways or with the owner's consent.

At the same time, 150 demonstrators were trespassing on land in East Sussex against plans to grow crops on the Downs. Members of the campaigning group, The Land Is Ours, held their mass trespass to protest about farmers growing crops on land that used to be open to the public.

The group, which set up an eco village in Wandsworth, south London, two years ago in protest at plans by the brewer Guinness to develop a derelict site, campaigns for the public's right to use open land. The Dartmoor National Park Authority, which introduced the cycling ban in June, said the rule was needed to protect the land from erosion and to protect livestock and wildlife from the cyclists.

But Dave Richards, a spokesman for the Cyclists' Touring Club, said: "Intransigence on the part of landowners, Devon County Council and the Government has led to cyclists being thrown off Dartmoor when it is supposedly government policy both to encourage cycling and to recognise the public's right to access and to enjoy the countryside."

Hang-gliding, camping, golfing and letterboxing are banned on the moor and certain areas have been fenced off.

In Dover, farmers and protesters were once again on opposite sides of the fence as animal rights activists campaigned against the export of lambs and sheep. Compassion in World Farming held a rally and march through the town to demonstrate against the launch of a new ferry service to Dunkirk for the export of lambs and sheep.