Whisky, wellies and a rural invasion

THE Highland Park whisky splashing into the plastic beaker and across my hand was an early sign that this was no ordinary coach trip. In an "Up for the Cup" mood an unpretentious corner of rural England was coming to town with a message.

The farmer's wife dispensing the scotch had been on a march before. "I went on an Aldermaston march in the early Sixties. I got a clip round the ear from my father and I've never been on a march since," said Wendy Clulow. With their dairy farm taking a hammering as milk prices fall and fall, the one- time teenager disarmer decided it was time to protest again.

For the 54 folk on the coach, this rural rising had begun at 8am in a yard near Leek, in Staffordshire. For farmers, the day had begun a few hours earlier, tending stock and often handing over to a labourer brought in for the day.

Mick Heath of the village of Heaton, had to help a cow give birth to a calf in the early hours. He reckoned it had cost him at least pounds 100 to get away for the march, a tidy sum when you are farming at a loss.

The passengers were a cross section of rural Staffordshire, including staff from the Leek livestock market. The hunting set was barely represented on our NFU-organised coach - though we passed a score with hunt posters on the motorway - but their cause is keenly supported. One of the banners which most delighted the Leek group read: "Eat British Lamb - 50,000 foxes can't be wrong."

For Neil Perkins, 26, a mechanic travelling with his wife, the weather would have been just right for a day's shooting. He would have been doing a bit of pest control, shooting crows and magpies. Like most of his fellow passengers Neil believes that if hunting with hounds was banned, the animal welfare people would turn on shooting next.

But for all the serious message they were bringing to town - Neil cannot afford to buy a house in his home village because outsiders have pushed up prices - the mood on the bus was buoyant, with banter and occasional boos, in full flow.

The scale of the invasion started to dawn as we reached west London. Buses were backed up at junctions and hundreds of marchers were queuing for tickets at Shepherds Bush and White City tube stations.

Cultures were clashing. On the Central Line, smartly casual Londoners eyed their country cousins with curiosity but wisely hid any amusement over the Wellington boots and flat caps. Despite the media cliches, the Barber jacket is not uniform country wear and when a farmer wears one it is a worked-in, lived-in sort of thing, unlike its urban owned counterpart.

"Bloody hell, it's like Alton Towers," was the booming reaction of one of our party gawping up the escalator at Holborn station. We shuffled into the moving mass near the Temple and moved on to the Embankment. Around 3pm a marshal announced it was only 400 yards to go to the start of the march and hours more to Hyde Park.

Goodness knows when they got back to the coach and those bottles of scotch that one hard-pressed hill farmer had stashed on the luggage rack.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before