A 120-MILE march is being recreated to mark the 40th anniversary of "one of the largest protests in history".

In 1981 about 40 people - mainly women, some with pushchairs, and a few men – took a stand against nuclear weapons being transported in the UK by marching from Cardiff to Greenham Common RAF Base in Newbury, Berkshire.

They wanted wanted to speak with the commander and debate the decision to host the US missiles and hoped it would be headline news. A peace camp was set-up at Greenham Common, which remained there up until 2000 when the RAF base was decommissioned.

40 years on people are following in the footsteps of these Welsh folk and on Thursday, August 26, began the nine day journey, walking from Cardiff City Hall to Community House on Eton Road in Newport. It was here, back in 1981, where the original marchers were fed on the first night of the march.

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Ingrid Wilson, who is now Director at Community House, was there when marchers arrived back in 1981 and greeted the 2021 marchers who were offered vegetarian curry.

Reflecting on 40 years ago, Ms Wilson said: “I was just an ordinary mum with young boys but I was concerned about nuclear weapons.

“It wasn’t just about big ones [nuclear events] such as Hiroshima and Fukushima but weapons travelling on our roads at night in secret – what if there’d been an accident? It would have been horrific.

“We at Community House knew we had to do something about it, so the team fed walkers on the first night. As nobody knew why they were walking we made them a banner – with a map of the route – from a bedsheet and magic markers.”

South Wales Argus: Ingrid Wilson spoke at the Riverfront event following the first day of the 2021 marchIngrid Wilson spoke at the Riverfront event following the first day of the 2021 march

The first day of the 2021 march included Greenham women, supporters, and three young adults – including 17-year-old activist Poppy Stowell-Evans from Rogerstone - who are learning about Greenham's history as part of a documentary Protest by Awen Productions.

Arriving at Community House (a little later than they'd anticipated) Poppy Stowell-Evans described the first part of their walk as “shattering but amazing”.

Awaiting the arrival of marchers at Community House was Jill Raymond – a.k.a Ray – who was a Greenham woman but now lives in the Forest of Dean and is helping with the Protest documentary.

South Wales Argus: Greenham woman Ray (Jill Raymond) at Community House in NewportGreenham woman Ray (Jill Raymond) at Community House in Newport

Ray, who lived at Greenham Common for 16 years but now lives in the Forest of Dean, said: “Part of the publicity of the anniversary is to reinstate what happened into history. We can compare how it was done then and see where lessons can be learned.

“We were non-violent and there were lots of negotiations to agree on – we realised that women’s experience of violence was often different to men and often it takes more bravery for women to face violence than men.

“Living together made it easier to build strong bonds and I’m still friends with many of the Greenham women. But we had women all over the country offering support - our slogan was 'Greenham women are everywhere' because we were a very inclusive massive network."

Unlike in 1981, this march has already gathered support from local political figures. Labour's Ruth Jones and Jayne Bryant met marchers near Royal Gwent Hospital and joined them on their travels.

Ms Jones, whose pacifist predecessor Paul Flynn met the original marchers in 1981, commented on the importance of remembering history, referencing Boris Johnson’s recent plan to increase the size of the UK’s nuclear weapons stockpile

Ms Jones said: “The UK Government is trying to increase [our supply of nuclear weapons] - that money could be better spent elsewhere and we need to target it appropriately.

“It was lovely to se marchers singing today and it's important to remember history. This revival allows young people to carry the movement forward and work towards a safe and secure future.”

Ms Bryant added: “Activism is so important and it's good to encourage young people to get involved.

“People are surprised at the lengths people went to, the levels of activism, and the strength of feelings in our past.

"It's important to remember what went by and make sure people's voices are not lost."

Jessica Morden and John Griffiths also showed support, chatting with people at Community House and joining a post-march event at Riverfront Theatre, also attended by Newport City Council leader Jane Mudd.

South Wales Argus:

Shirley Newnham, who was a supporter of the Greenham women, was also at the Riverfront event.

“I was working at the time, so never stayed,” said Ms Newnham.

“I visited and supported – there was lots of local support with buses going up on weekends with food, clothes, and toys, and people joining in the action.

“By 1983 the miner strikes started which was another place women came into their own through support groups. It’s important to share experiences and to remember our history.”

Rosemary Butler also spoke at the event, describing the Greenham women’s movement as the biggest female campaign since the Suffragette movement despite it being less known-of in younger genrations.

She referenced ‘Embrace the Base’ when 30,000 women showed up for a peaceful protest, holding hands around the nuclear base.

South Wales Argus:

“It was one of the largest protests in history,” said Ms Butler.

“Some of the women remained until 2000 to ensure the site was returned to public use – it’s now a nature reserve. But many younger women know almost nothing about it and the sacrifices made.”

To see the rest of the route for the 2021 recreation march visit www.greenhamwomeneverywhere.co.uk/march/