TWENTY years ago they fought to save a Hampshire beauty spot from becoming part of a motorway.

Although they were unable to stop Twyford Down becoming part of the M3, former protesters came together to remember their battle.

About 50 people returned to the scene of the protest at St Catherine’s Hill, Winchester, at the weekend.

The rally was not just about nostalgia but looking forward and protesting against Government plans to begin new major road building in the countryside.

Success Sian Berry, of the Campaign for Better Transport, which organised the rally, said: “The Twyford Down protest was a huge success, even though we can see the horrible damage it did to the countryside when the M3 was built. It kick-started something special that prevented a lot more roads being built.

“We want to get across the message that going back to a large programme of road building is a massive step backwards. But if they try it again we will defeat them again.”

Michael Hamblett was one of the activists sent to prison for refusing to leave the site but he said his two-week stint in jail was well worth it.

Mr Hamblett, 58, of Oxford, said: “I haven’t been back here that often in 20 years. I came back and I felt sick at what I saw. What’s been done here is horrendous. But everything we did and everything that happened was definitely worth it.”

Several people took direct action to prevent the road building, including a group of new age travellers, the Dongas tribe, who lived on the land.

Their camp was broken up by security guards in December 1992 and their protests were unable to stop the build, which was completed in 1994.

Rebecca Lush Blum, 40, of Warsash, was a Donga who lived on site from September 1992 until the eviction night.

She said: “It was a horrific experience and very violent. We were dragged through thorns and we were being kicked and punched and someone pulled out a clump of my hair.

“We definitely achieved something. There were 600 roads that were supposed to be started before our campaign and by the time the Labour Government came to power there were only 150 left so we decimated the roads plan within five years.”