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Beacons mark start of protest

BEACONS WERE lit in rural communities across the UK at the start of last week six days before the Liberty and Livelihood march, which took place in London last Sunday.

Over 400,000 people attended the rally on Sunday in protest at the Government's handling of countryside issues. The beacon fires in towns and villages from Land's End to Scotland marked the start of a week of activity.

A chain of 50 rockets, starting in Scotland - from where a relay race to London began -spread the length of the country.

Many of the fires were attended by hundreds of people showing solidarity for the rural way of life they say is under threat. One beacon was lit by Richard Hares, the tenant farmer of Chequers, Bucks, the Prime Minister's country residence.

Dylan Evans, 34, an undertaker and huntmaster from Blaenau, near Llandeilo, south-west Wales, topped his nearest beacon with an old coffin and provided other offcuts to help fuel the fire.

"It's a symbol of the crisis in the countryside," he said. "I'm particularly opposed to any ban on hunting. If Tony Blair had his way, the traditional countryside way of life would die, so burning the coffin is very poignant."

Protesters in other countries lit beacons in support last week. They included Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada and America.

The demonstration on Sunday, was officially recognised as the largest civil rights demonstration in Britain, was organised by the Countryside Alliance, but many other rural organisations attended, drawing attention to many other issues of concern in rural communities.