THERE were some tense moments when police had a face-to-face confrontation with a group of travellers who settled in Savernake Forest on Tuesday evening.

All weekend extra officers had been on duty manning access points to the forest after police received information that a major rave could take place there to mark the 20th anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield, when police clashed with New Age travellers at Cholderton.

The expected anniversary rave did not materialise although police said lorries carrying mobile stages had been seen in the area but were deterred by the large number of officers guarding accesses to the forest.

The police cordons were due to be discontinued yesterday.

However on Tuesday a small band of travellers, most of them from eco groups from West Wales, set up camp at the forest’s Hatt Gate picnic area on the Wootton Rivers road.

About half a dozen vehicles got past a wooden barrier, that was later found damaged, shortly before 7pm. A powerful battery-powered amplifier was set up and music could be heard at the nearest homes at Hatt Gate a quarter of a mile away.

Police led by the Marlborough sector commander Insp Jerry Dawson were quickly at the scene.

After confirming that the travellers had no permission to camp from the landowner, the Savernake Estate, police asked them to move.

Some of the campers had been drinking and demanded to be allowed to stay.

With just a handful of police officers a few yards away to back him up if necessary ­ although there were more waiting in other parts of the forest to provide reinforcements ­ the inspector talked with the travellers and calmed the situation.

One of the travellers called Ian said they had headed for Wiltshire to commemorate the Battle of the Beanfield although he was too young to be there in 1985.

He said: “We want to mark the fact that 20 years ago the police broke the law when they made all those arrests at the Battle of the Beanfield.

“Although the police actions were later declared illegal they have never apologised. What they did was out of order and we would like an apology.”

After speaking to the travellers Insp Dawson said: “They said they would move on if I apologised for the police actions at the Battle of the Beanfield.

“I said to them that if they felt they had been mistreated then I was sorry and they appeared happy with that.”

Some two-and-a-half hours after arriving at Hatt Gate, the travellers left and headed south on the A346 to Burbage and then to Grafton where they did a U-turn and headed back to Burbage and then drove through the Collingbournes before spending the night at Amesbury.

After they left Hatt Gate officers discovered the barrier into the picnic site had been broken.

Insp Dawson said: “It looks as though they were planning to get into the site and probably have more travellers join them if we had let them stay.”

Police remained at Hatt Gate until the barrier was mended.