While most have been obeying government instructions to stay home, one protestor’s lockdown life has consisted of building tree houses, blocking gates and standing in front of bulldozers.
Larch Maxey, 47, from the East Midlands, has spent his lockdown among the treetops peering down upon a ground force armed with diggers, bulldozers and chainsaws.
He said: “Blocking HS2 is my way of drawing a line in the sand. Building this railway is accelerating the climate emergency.”
Larch explains: “I have been living up trees for most of the lockdown. The eviction in Crackley Wood (Warwickshire) took 9 days. Then I was in Broadwell Wood (Warwickshire) for 8 days.
On Friday, @HS2ltd CEO accused tree protectors in #Crackley Woods of wasting police time and putting the lives of their workers at risk. This is the reality. #HS2 are evicting people who are isolated up trees during the #lockdown whilst ignoring #SocialDistancing.#NHSnotHS2 pic.twitter.com/5aD2lYKKwO— Stop HS2 (@stophs2) April 26, 2020
Larch has even been up trees in Euston Square Gardens, where the HS2 line will begin.
For Larch, living up trees is the easy part: “I love living up a tree. I got the name Larch because I lived up one tree for 8 months campaigning against a motorway expansion,” he says.
He explains that HS2 has adopted a siege approach by cutting off supplies from the ground. This in itself was never enough to force Larch down.
He says: “I would have stayed up on hunger strike if necessary.”
Larch claims ‘ex-military’ teams of climbers were eventually employed to force them down using cherry pickers.
Larch Maxey find a it hard to hold back the emotions as the #HS2 cherry picker moves in to remove and arrest his son, Sapling from the tree behind him "I'm so proud that my 19 son is making that sacrifice to protect his future and the future of his generation"#NHSnotHS2 pic.twitter.com/OBSKklT07E— Stop HS2 (@stophs2) April 26, 2020
Despite this happening on numerous occasions, Larch believes their efforts have not been in vain.
By alerting authorities such as Natural England, who are obliged to intervene on matters relating to conservation and animal welfare (such as the necessity for bat surveys), Larch says they have time and time again compelled HS2 to delay.
“108 woodlands are threatened between London and Birmingham. We have only lost one completely and two partially. Without us here they would have been totally felled without a shadow of a doubt,” Larch explains.
Larch says he was arrested earlier this month, but was released without charge.
He says: “There have been hundreds of arrests. Of course I don’t want to be arrested. I don’t want to go to prison, but I’m willing to do what it takes to stop HS2 and turn this around.”
The latest YouGov polling conducted on May 18 suggests only just over one quarter of british adults support the scheme with opposition to the project now at 44%.
With the government estimate for the cost of HS2 having almost doubled to £106 billion in the past 5 years, Larch is of no doubt that the costs will keep on rising.
“We have a government who have struggled to provide basic PPE equipment to our frontline NHS staff in a pandemic and they will be happy to spend £200 billion on this immoral scheme,” Larch says.
Larch’s resolve is unwavering. He explains: “I am confident HS2 will be stopped. The more people who get involved, the sooner we can stop it. But how many communities and ancient woodlands have to be destroyed before that happens?”
For Larch, HS2 stands for more than just a railway line destroying woodlands and ecosystems between London and Birmingham. He believes it represents another nail in Earth’s coffin as we hurtle towards climate catastrophe.
Larch explains: “Everyday I wake up and I think of the thousand children who will die today because of climate change. I just try to do what I can to serve them.”