Fracking protest
Roadside demonstration at Bainton, East Riding of Yorkshire, which is the gateway to Cuadrilla's proposed fracking gas fields.Dave Marris/Midnight Blue Productions

I was born and raised in the East Riding and went to school in Malton in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The announcement of the latest round of Exploration and Development Licences placed Yorkshire in the frontline of extreme energy extraction, by fracking, in the UK.

We knew this tranche of licences was imminent, but were shocked when the extent of it began to dawn on us. We consulted the Department for Energy and Climate Change's (DECC) licence maps that made the full impact clear.

Since May 2014 we have campaigned against Rathlin Energy's exploration plans at Crawberry Hill, East Yorkshire. Following the removal of the Protection Camp of protesters last January, a small band of mainly pensioners have stood outside the gates at Crawberry Hill to remind the community and the oil company that we believe this industry poses a massive risk to our water, our air, our health and our precious environment.

In many ways this has been a phoney war because Rathlin has always insisted that we are "scaremongers", peddling misinformation. Rathlin claims it never had any intention of fracking, despite permits for mini-fracs.

We replied: "If not you, another company after your initial exploration of the Bowland Shale." Meanwhile Rathlin's failure to meet Environment Agency conditions on gas flaring, waste disposal and adequate safety measures at a second site at West Newton have meant that both sites in East Yorkshire have been dormant for eight months.

A key issue is that Rathlin's failures were reported by residents, not the company. So much for "strict regulations" here. Now everything has changed and the big boys have moved in.

Cuadrilla is an avowed fracker. No longer are Crawberry Hill and West Newton the outposts of fracking. The very heart of the Yorkshire Wolds is their target. It is all up for grabs.

For those who don't know what is at stake, the Yorkshire Wolds are a series of undulating chalkland hills and deeply-incised dry valleys yielding some of the finest arable farmland in the country. The landscape is cut by chalk springs and streams fed by the underground aquifer, which is the source of our precious drinking water. The streams feed into the Hull River which is the focus of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust activity to protect one of the best chalk rivers in the country.

The fields also conceal a rich, mysterious Iron Age archaeology at the heart of the largest group of Early Iron Age burials in Britain, the Arras Culture. Wetwang, now in the firing line of Cuadrilla's ambitions, is the burial ground of an Iron Age Celtic Princess whose body was interred in her war chariot but unearthed 2,300 years later during a housing development project. Numerous Sites of Special Scientific Interest also lie within these licence areas across Yorkshire.

This intention to frack the Yorkshire heartland has become an issue for all of us. Opposition was previously seen as something that extremists or hippies did. Residents of the Wolds villages now face the prospect of fracking and there is an urgent need for protest because choice has been taken out of our hands.

The day after the announcement, our group of protesters took one of our pop-up roadside demonstrations to the village of Bainton within the fracking zone. Support from passing motorists was loud, clear and overwhelming. Cars stopped and the occupants joined our protest. The question newcomers always ask is, "how can our local council and our national government allow this to happen to our communities and our lives?"

In truth, it's hard to answer that question without sounding like a conspiracy theorist. There is a deep sense of betrayal.

Fracking to continue
Mager: "Cuadrilla is an avowed fracker."Cuadrilla

Our Conservative MP Graham Stuart claims that all progress implies risk. We have met Conservatives who will never vote Tory again because of the sense of betrayal to the frackers.

A key part of our campaign has been to raise awareness of the impact of continued use of fossil fuels, including shale gas. Last weekend the local news highlighted huge cliff falls on the coast which the local council describes as the fastest eroding coastline in Europe. More than one third of the East Riding and all of Hull is at or below sea level and we have experienced serious flooding – the homes of 260,000 are at direct risk now and this will get worse if climate change continues.

Siemens is creating employment for thousands in a new factory to support wind farms and it is hard to understand why the government is propping up fossil fuels when this area has huge untapped potential for wind, solar and tidal energy.

Anti-fracking groups are forming all around us, no doubt even as I write, and across the country, people from different backgrounds and political systems are coming together to form broad-based and non-hierarchical groupings to oppose this industry in any way we can.


Val Mager has been an active member of Hull and East Yorkshire Frack Off since May 2014 and works closely with HEY Frack Off, which was set up by locals in 2013 after a visit from Frack Off.org. She is also a member of Frack Free East Yorkshire, which coordinates local activists across the East Riding.

Val was the first person to be arrested at the Crawberry Hill Protection camp in May 2014. All charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence.