Aldermaston 2008


With my mum and dad, I went to a CND demonstration at Aldermaston on 24 March 2008 (Easter Monday). I think it was an anniversary of the original march to Aldermaston.

Dad quickly left us as he had decided to bike from Reading station, while we were going to walk from Aldermaston station. (It's still some distance.)


Examining our map carefully - and confusing a few dozen other people who'd arrived on the same train and were intending to walk straight to the demo - we found a selection of footpaths that would take us a little bit closer to the site without having to go all the way along the main road. A few others joined us for the walk, which was through picturesque and unspoilt (if you don't count a slightly higher level of background radiation) countryside.

Taken from one of a whole sequence of footbridges across what had been old mill-runs. They must have had enough water power here to run an atomic weapons establishment!
1/20 at f19, 10mm, ISO100

Unfortunately, after that nice start to the day we then had to walk a long and depressing way along a long and depressing and busy main road. There wasn't even much to see; it was a case of trying not to get run over. (Wasn't really that dangerous, but I hate that kind of walking, it's so stressful.)

The demonstration

Finally, one corner of the base came into view in the distance.

Police, protesters, and cranes.
1/350 at f8, 220mm, ISO200

Having reached the base, we quickly diverted along the path around it away from the road. There's a convenient cleared path all around the outside of the fence, possibly for security reasons, or maybe it's just a footpath. A short way down there, we stopped to have lunch.

Streetlights, chimneystacks, warehouse-like buildings beyond the fence.
1/500 at f8, 179mm, ISO200

We then began to walk all around the base. This is a Long Way and the organisers weren't asking people to do a circuit, but hey, we hadn't had an opportunity last time. The path was muddy in parts, so we squelched around, passing plenty of other protesters all along.

Nature begins to take over the Nuclear Licensed Site. Well, the sign.
1/180 at f8, 55mm, ISO200
That's a nuclear facility (most of the buildings of which look strangely like a secondary school) behind a sign that says 'Nuclear Free'. Ceci n'est pas une pipe? (It actually read, I dunno, Glaswegians for a nuclear free world, or something like that.)
1/180 at f8, 55mm, ISO200

Inside the fence at one point was a small lake, the kind of thing you might see in any park, with a few trees around it and a 'No Bathing' sign. Seriously. Because people are otherwise going to jump into a pond of freezing-cold, dirty looking water in the grounds of a nuclear weapons factory.

Chimneys, fence, streetlight inside the base.
1/750 at f8, 250mm, ISO200
One of the few buildings that doesn't look like a secondary school.
1/125 at f13, 187mm, ISO200

We made it back to the road - actually a different road, across the south side of the base - at about the time the main event of the demonstration was supposed to start. We were encircling the base! It wasn't terribly convincing but to be fair, there was definitely a line of people along the fence, and it probably did go all the way around.

After everyone got bored of that and began to disperse, we basically continued walking around. We hadn't realised how much further there was to go just to get back where we started, so it took a while. Some way along we encountered Dad on his bike; he was about to head back to Reading, I think.

Can you spot the second crime against humanity indicated by this roadsign? That's right, the letterspacing on those place names is atrocious!
1/125 at f8, 250mm, ISO200

At about this point it actually stopped raining and the sun came out, which made a nice change, but mostly just made me sweat heavily as we finally reached the horrible road and headed back to the station.

Before leaving the base; fences and fences and fences and fences. (And that sun, shining on a pipe.)
1/350 at f8, 55mm, ISO200


Back on the country footpath part of our route; the sky was a really interesting colour behind this electrical pole.
1/500 at f8, 100mm, ISO200

Obviously the demonstration was a total failure in the sense that the government hasn't abandoned their plans for a highly expensive, completely unnecessary, morally unacceptable and legally dubious new weapons system... but I wasn't precisely expecting that to happen, so I'm not too disheartened. Overall it was quite a nice, interesting day out and it's good to stand up for something occasionally, particularly if that also provides an opportunity to photograph chimneys and fences.

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.