The front line in the campaign to halt fracking in Yorkshire village of Kirby Misperton

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Kirby Misperton, surrounded by farming fields and centred around the ninth-century church after which it is named, is the image of Blake’s “green and pleasant land”.

There are no shops here, no village school. It’s home to about 380 people, ‘ordinary, working folk’, and was, until recently, relatively quiet.

Anti-fracking campaigners enjoying a warm drink and a chat in front of the new refreshment caravan near the entrance of the Third Energy fracking site on the edge of the village.

Anti-fracking campaigners enjoying a warm drink and a chat in front of the new refreshment caravan near the entrance of the Third Energy fracking site on the edge of the village.

Now it is best known for its peaceful protest. For the slow marches, lorry-surfing and protesters’ camp as campaigners take a stand in a fraught battle over the future of energy.

For those who live there, it’s exhausting. To be suddenly in the spotlight, with the world watching to see which way the pendulum will swing. And amidst an amicable community, it has at times caused a rift.

“It’s not split the village, but it has turned neighbour against neighbour,” says the Rev Jackie Cray, whose own anti-fracking posters were once torn in two by vandals.

“That’s been the most harmful. Are people in the village for or against fracking? About 99 per cent are against. But they are also fatalistic about it.”

What’s happening in Kirby Misperton, says Rev Cray, is indicative of what could be coming to villages and parishes across the county.

“It’s coming to Yorkshire,” she adds. “And I don’t think people really know.”

Plans for Kirby Misperton’s existing KM8 well were passed by North Yorkshire County Council in May 2016 in a vote of seven to four in favour, amid chants of “we say no” from protesters gathered outside.

The decision paves the way for the controversial fracking gas mining method to be used onshore in the UK for the first time since 2011, when operations on the Fylde coast were suspended amid concerns about earth tremors.

Fracking here could begin within weeks, with the final test being over the “financial resilience” of applicant Third Energy, and it would almost certainly set in motion a chain reaction.

Many believe the big energy giants are watching in anticipation, poised to move forward with their own plans across the region if Third Energy were to be given the go-ahead.

The debate in Kirby Misperton is very much alive. There is a protesters’ camp. There are villagers, prepared to protest. And there is a small army of volunteer officials, poring over every document. Everybody here is now an expert in hydraulic fracturing.

“It’s been like going back to school,” said Karen Garrett, parish councillor for neighbouring Great and Little Barugh, who is one of those charged with keeping track of the minutiae. “We’ve had to learn about the whole process.”

Ms Garrett, born and raised in the area, said the effort was about securing a future here.

“I’ve heard it said that we are but custodians of this land, protecting it for future generations,” she said. “That about sums it up.”

Holding up an inch-thick file on notes on traffic management alone, she says she cannot begin to guess the hours she’s spent on research and administration. “Countless,” she says. “It makes you awfully cynical.”

Steve Mason, a former furniture maker who is now parish councillor at nearby Great Habton and campaign director of Frack Free United, said for many the fight was now a full-time job.

“There are people here who could write a PhD thesis on this, the amount of hours that have gone in,” he said. “It’s been a complete life-changer.”

For villagers living amidst the battle, the daily debate is beginning to take its toll. The protests, police presence, road closures and diversions.

People no longer talk about fracking in casual conversation, said Hazel Winter, 57, who has lived here for 20 years. The battle is now a part of daily life. And Mrs Winter, compelled to fight, has found herself joining protests for the first time in her life.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a passionate person – I’m very logical,” she said. “But it’s about trying to get people to understand – this is not just about Kirby Misperton.

“For another village, the impact is going to be a lot greater.”

Rev Cray says there are three camps; those in favour of fracking, those opposed, and those who are have just had enough of the disruption.

A traffic survey by villagers recorded 100 police vehicles in a single week, she said. There are convoys of lorries. And every time there’s even a spark of protest, the roads are closed.

Earlier this month, when the village centre was closed after a young man climbed atop a lorry, the frustration began to spill over.

“The police lined up outside my house,” said Rev Cray. “I was supposed to be doing a pastoral visit, a few houses down. They wouldn’t let me go. Another lady was supposed to be setting off on a world cruise, and there was someone coming to pick up all her cases. She was beside herself.”

Marching up to the young man herself to explain the upset he had caused, she said he climbed down ten minutes later.

There is no right answer, she said, but most people are resigned to what’s happening – out of a feeling of frustration that there may be no other way.

“How do we do opposition to this in a way that is listened to?,” she asks. “What voice have we got?”

Paul Wicks, former chairman of the parish council, resigned in the wake of planning being approved for the area, out of a sense of immense frustration. Now, he said, they are “living under the cloud” of what may come.

“I’m opposed to the fracking because I’m not convinced we need to be extracting more fossil fuels. I’m opposed to it at Kirby Misperton because of the disruption to our local community without a strong case.”

Third Energy insisted last night that developing gas from unconventional formations, such as shale, could be viewed ‘very positively’ by Yorkshire residents in terms of inward investment, growth of the local supply chain and jobs.

Director Alan Linn said: “Nationally, it will provide a new source of domestically produced natural gas and displace imported gas. Large parts of Yorkshire sit on top of the Bowland Shale Formation, potentially one of the best sources of gas-bearing shale in Europe. Let’s not import this vital form of energy when we can produce it in the UK.

“By using our own home-grown sources of gas, we can produce benefits for the environment and our security of supply, and provide local communities with inward investment they need.”