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Gillingham and Shaftesbury Extinction Rebellion (XR) climate change activitists are joining the Save Our Shores environmental groups this weekend for a pilgrimage from Shaftesbury to the Jurassic cost in protest at plans for more oil drilling off the Dorset coast.

Some two dozen people have already signed up to start the walk on the last day of the climate strike action called by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and many more are expected to join them.

The walk, from the top of Gold Hill to Studland along footpaths, will take place over three days from 27-29 September, a week before XR’s International Rebellion that begins on 7 October and runs to 19 October.

It has been organised by local activists after private oil company Corallion reported in March it had found ‘potentially substantial’ reserves in Poole Harbour.

The drill site is close to 58 marine and coastal protected areas and activists said this week Corallion’s rig is ‘in clear sight’ of the coast, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The government issued the drilling licence despite a comprehensive campaign by local and national activists including Greenpeace and a letter to the Secretary of State signed by local businesses, organisations and others including Jane Goodall.

‘The pilgrimage to Studland is a journey and protest for anyone or group concerned about the continued investment in fossil fuel extraction,’ said local organiser musician Karen Wimhurst.

‘Just as the world wakes up – again – to the escalating threat of climate change, the Dorset coast and its unique marine environment is under threat from more oil exploration and extraction.

‘This is no time to be developing more fossil fuel sites and threatening biodiversity.’

She said that local activists want as many people as possible to join for all or any part of the route that will culminate in a mass gathering and ceremony on the clifftop near the Old Harry rocks on Sunday 29 September at 2.30pm.

‘The oil found in Poole Harbour will eventually be extracted by horizontal drilling from Wytch Farm in Purbeck, already the largest onshore oil field in western Europe.

‘Two further drilling licences were issued to Corallion in June 2019 for yet more offshore exploration near Poole Harbour and Perenco, the operators of Wytch Farm, have just started seismic testing near Kimmeridge and other Purbeck sites.’

Among other organisations also challenging the decision to allow drilling is the Sea Horse Trust.

The Sea Horse Trust’s founder and director Neil Garrick-Maidment recently won a judicial review of the drilling licences after a successful crowdfunding campaign by local activists.

A statement issued by Gillingham and Shaftesbury XR activitists, who came up with the idea of the pilgrimage, said: ‘We’re in a climate emergency and drilling for more oil which we cannot safely burn is absurd and unacceptable and we want it stopped.’

More information on the protest pilgrimage is on the Planet Shaftesbury website at www.planetshaftesbury.org/pilgrimage or contact Karen Wimhurst at [email protected] or 01747 850978.

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