Villagers are celebrating after the last gypsy family left a camp in the Meriden greenbelt after losing a three-year battle.
It’s taken 1,085 days, £90,000 and 20 legal battles but last Saturday afternoon, the final caravan pulled off the Eaves Green Lane site just 24 hours before the High Court deadline.
But not before staging a defiant protest, which saw the travellers set several fires around the camp.
The families moved onto the six-acre field they own during the May Day Bank Holiday weekend in 2010.
However, they had not bet on the sheer determination of local villagers to protect their greenbelt. The hastily-established protest group RAID braved rain and snow to keep a 24-hour vigil opposite the camp.
“I can’t believe they’ve gone,” said retired paramedic Vivienne Murphy, aged 69, who says her quiet life was shattered after the traveller’s arrival.
“It’s like a dream. I didn’t think they would ever leave.”
David McGrath, chairman of RAID (Residents Against Inappropriate Development), said: “It’s been very emotional.
“There have been tears and a huge sense of relief mixed with joy. We have achieved our big objective.” The protesters took down their own camp on Monday, following a small ceremony and one minute’s silence for four campaigners who passed away during the protracted planning battle.
“Jim Charlesworth was a decorated war veteran,” Mr McGrath added. “He served his country as a young man and fought for his countryside until the day he passed on.
“We also had Roy Kendrick, Barry Pointon and Margaret Griffiths, all inspirational supporters of the campaign.”
Locals are even considering a remembrance garden in honour of the four while Mr McGrath pledged that RAID would continue.
“The protest camp is gone but the campaign goes on,” he added.
“They burnt two caravans and lit multiple fires around the site as they left, it now looks like a scorched and burn-out mud bath. But they have a legal obligation to reinstate the land which we want to ensure happens.
“There has also been an amazing community spirit and we really want to build on that going forward.
“We will be setting up a RAID club so people can keep in touch with each other as well as continuing with the campaign.”
Landowner and gypsy spokesman Noah Burton claimed the situation left losers on all sides as gypsy families became homeless and villagers were left with the “stigma” of a former gypsy site.
He has now put the plot back up for sale and is inviting offers until May 30.