Woodburn oil drill protest campaigners' dismay as trees start coming down in natural haven
More than 30 campaigners braved the cold to wade ankle-deep through their muddied makeshift campsite to continue their protest against drilling for oil at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus.
Residents and environmentalists again joined forces yesterday to make a stand to try and stop the drilling.
Complete with campfire, banners and hot tea, their aim was to prevent InfraStrata contractors accessing the site.
The tables were turned when huge concrete bollards were placed at the entrance to deter the protesters, with 24-hour patrols by PSNI officers.
Tensions increased further when the protesters, positioned at the official entrance on Paisley Road, saw contractors with chainsaws entering from the New Line Road.
Campaigner Majella McCarron was at the stand-off and said she was almost hit by a felled tree. She blamed Mid and East Antrim Council for the situation
"We are now trying to get Mark Durkan to call this in," she said.
"This got through on the 'permitted development' route, but at the very least they should have had planning permission.
"There's no officials here except for the police, even though this a peaceful protest.
"No one from the council is here, or health and safety. In fact, as a tree was felled I felt the branch brush my face.
"We've made the calls, but the phone just rings off the hook."
Farmer and nature lover John MacDermott said: "When I walked here late this morning I could hear the blackbirds singing and I saw the jays coming in. Now, two hours later, it's clear-felled. All you can hear is machines and smell two-stroke oil."
Councillor Jim Brown joined protesters to lend his support. He was dismayed at the extent of the tree-felling.
"I don't know how much this project is worth but I know the worth of what they are destroying far outweighs any intrinsic value that could be created by it," he said.