Two hundred security guards and pounds 100m couldn't stop a mallard doi ng nature's work

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The Independent Online
The bulldozers line the horizon, the contractors are preparing for a hard day's graft, writes Louise Jury.

And in the middle of the path of the Newbury bypass in Berkshire, a mallard is sitting upon r 11 new eggs.

The human protesters have been forced to depart after a three-month battle, leaving the Thames Valley police to complain of the pounds 2.6m cost of the eviction programme.

However, as a Friends of the Earth spokesman said last night: "They may have got rid of the protesters but will find it harder to evict the wildlife. It will keep on coming back. It shows the robustness of nature."

One of the key arguments of the environmental protesters during their campaign has been the potential damage to wildlife in the area.

Although mallards are not a rare species, elsewhere on the proposed route badgers, rare snails and a range of birds, including dunnocks, wrens, lapwings and skylarks, have made their mark.

The mallard pictured above has been made safe, cordoned off with orange tape, while she tends her nest.

"It will be good if they keep on getting delays because they find wildlife there," the Friends of the Earth spokesman said.

More than 200 security guards at a time have been employed to guard the site of the pounds 101m bypass.

Work began at the beginning of January on the first stage, which involved clearing the site and preparing it for construction.

Last week, Charles Pollard, Chief Constable of Thames Valley, criticised a hard-core of protesters for forcing up the bill for handling the dispute by their actions.

He appealed to ordinary middle-class protesters to dissociate themselves from the allegedly violent actions of what he described as more militant campaigners.

Letters, page 16