Atom convoy diverted as German Swampys tunnel under road

A watch-tower with reflector lights guards over Camp Gusborn on the front line separating nuclear power from the people. A sign reminds inmates of an alcohol ban, and instructs them to keep dogs on a lead.

You might think this canvas Colditz was the creation of the "nuclear state", synonymous in Gorleben mythology with the "police state". In reality, Camp Gusborn's tents provide temporary shelter for 1,200 autonomists, anarchists and drop-outs, unsure of their ideology, who set the rules themselves.

Judging by the empty beer bottles and the vacant expressions on the faces of some residents, the ban on alcohol and drugs is flexible. But in all other respects the tenants are a faithful reflection of German society, straining to maintain a semblance of order even on the brink of anarchy.

They sort their rubbish - tucking it away neatly in bags of different colours - and in the evenings endeavour to keep the noise down. These are Swampy's German cousins - militant environmentalists who have been digging trenches under a road in an effort to stop nuclear waste reaching its "medium-term" destination.

Ever vigilant of the "police state", they have no names, and cover up the number-plates on their cars. Most of them are young with exotic but clean hair-dos, sporting aggressive badges and a disarmingly mild manner. "I came here from Bremen because I'm against nuclear power," says a 17- year-old girl. She does not know who runs the camp, has not the faintest idea where the food that is served up to her comes from, and questions about political parties draw a blank. She is here to force the "castors" - the nuclear waste containers - to turn back.

A 22-year-old man from Berlin is here "because of the nuclear shit," and also "because this is a great place to meet people". He is unemployed, but couldn't care less about that, or politics or anything else other than nuclear power. Asked to comment on the government's policies, he politely declines.

There are about ten camps nestling among the forests, all with slightly different tasks and inhabitants. Near the nuclear site at Gorleben are lesbians who will only participate in single-sex protests. Their neighbours are the protesters' crack troops, the "Dykes on Bikes", who can be despatched to trouble-spots at short notice.

At the Splietau Camp near the railway terminal of Dannenberg, the emphasis is on passive resistance. At the other extreme, hooded youths dressed in black lurk, biding their time. These veterans of public disorder, present at every demonstration whatever the cause, will be throwing the stones and Molotov cocktails if trouble flares today.

Gusborn is about one-third of the way along the road linking Dannenberg, where the nuclear waste was loaded on to trucks yesterday morning, and Gorleben, the atomic cemetery.

The Gusborn residents were asked by organisers to make the road impassable and by yesterday morning had completed the task.

"The road is kaput," said a picket bursting with pride, and he was not exaggerating. For a distance of about half a mile, tunnels had been dug under the tarmac at 30 yard intervals, turning a solid highway into a series of flimsy pontoon bridges.

The excavated earth is heaped on top of the asphalt, the clumpy barricades reinforced at intervals with bits of concrete and the gaps filled with bales of straw which can be lit as the convoy approaches.

The 100-tonne lorries will not come this way, however, thanks to Camp Gusborn. The tent dwellers, their jobs well done, were loafing about yesterday awaiting new instructions.

With their road out of action, police and protesters alike switched their attention to one of the few alternative routes, a mile north of Gusborn. Here, along the so-called Quickborn route, a thousand activists tried to seize the road yesterday afternoon, but were driven back at every attempt.

Last night, convoys of police vans, prison lorries and water cannon were racing towards Dannenberg as the final battle loomed. The trucks carrying the nuclear waste are less than 20 miles from Gorleben, but their journey will not be simple.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'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
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
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
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk