The woman who has masterminded Extinction Rebellion’s shutdown of Central London all this week may claim to have the solutions to the world’s environmental problems.
But she has yet to convince her own neighbours in the leafy Cotswolds town of Stroud who complain about her use of a gas-guzzling car, the state of her ‘eyesore’ house and her overgrown gardens.
Dr Gail Bradbrook, 49, has overseen protests across Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Covent Garden that have caused carbon-generating traffic jams across the city and cost Covid-hit businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Her army of young followers adore her and turn up en masse to the protests she arranges – but MailOnline discovered she is considerably less admired in, Stroud, her hometown in Gloucestershire, where she is widely known from her media appearances and easily recognised by her pierced nose and colourful wardrobe.
People there who are struggling to keep businesses going after repeated lockdowns are unimpressed with her assaults on capitalism while neighbours are not convinced by what she describes as her ‘rewilded’ garden.
Extinction Rebellion co-founder Dr Gail Bradbrook addresses her fellow activists in Trafalgar Square in London on Monday
The diesel car belonging to Dr Bradbrook outside her home in the leafy Cotswolds town of Stroud, Gloucestershire
Neighbours of Dr Bradbrook have complained about the state of her ‘eyesore’ overgrown gardens at her home in Stroud
Take retired builder Peter Horton, 67, whose pristine property and neat gardens adjoins the green campaigner’s house.
He told MailOnline: ‘Her gardens both front and back are a shambles. She’s let everything grow so high, that you can’t see through it. It is an absolute eyesore.
‘I only ever hear her outside or sometimes get a glimpse of her doing her yoga in her conservatory.
‘When her fence fell she said she couldn’t afford to put it back up so I built a new one myself. I have got a Staffy and could not risk it getting out because of her lack of fence.
‘If you look over the fence, you can see her old fence stacked up like a pile of rubbish. She has also got a wood burner. l wish she’d chop it all up and use it.’
Or Jacqi Smith, who helps run a local community centre and food bank in the town. She said: ‘The people here do not have the capacity for Extinction Rebellion.’
Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, gives an interview at the ‘Impossible Rebellion Climate Action’ on Monday
Retired builder Peter Horton, 67, whose pristine property and neat gardens adjoins the green campaigner’s house, told MailOnline that Dr Bradbrook’s gardens ‘both front and back are a shambles’, adding: ‘She’s let everything grow so high’
The retired relationship counsellor added: ‘This neighbourhood has been affected particularly badly by the pandemic and we have a lot of other things to deal with in terms of money and jobs.
‘I know Gail and I see her around. But I don’t agree that stopping traffic is a way of saving the planet.’
Gail Bradbrook speaks at Trafalgar Square on Monday
Another local, a services veteran who asked not to be named, told us: ‘She is an absolute hypocrite for telling us all how to live and then driving around in that diesel car. She’s even got her green credentials on it.’
He went on: ‘I help out at the community centre and I painted the bus stop and railings near her house. ‘She came up to me and said ‘Why bother?’
‘I wasn’t impressed with her attitude and had to stop myself from telling her it was none of her f***ing business. Then she wanted to know what type of paint I was using and I was happy to tell her that it was Hammerite.
‘I have seen her moaning about people parking outside her home and right now she’s parked partially on a place which clearly says ‘disabled’.’
And it did seem today that her car, which she left behind all week to travel by public transport to the capital to mastermind the mayhem, has been parked outside her home, with two wheels positioned across a bay clearly marked ‘disabled’.
Yet while this may have further provoked people living nearby it seems on this score she is blameless as the bay is, Dr Bradbrook insists, no longer active.
Her car itself has provoked scrutiny for other reasons though.
The red 2013 Citroen 4×4 1560cc is hardly what one would expect of a prominent environmentalist. The vehicle emits a serious 112g per km in Co2 emissions.
Were she to have driven it to this week’s demo in London it would have fallen foul of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ultra low emission zone as not green enough and been subject to a £12.50 daily charge.
Her home is less than 50 meters from a bus stop and local operators Stagecoach West runs its regular number 63 bus service seven days a week
Apart from two small posters in the windows, including this one with the Extinction Rebellion logo, the modest house otherwise offers few clues that its occupant is one of Britain’s most militant environmentalists
Despite the apparent contraction it is decorated with stickers proclaiming: ‘I am a signed up Earth Protector…stop Ecocide, change the law.’
It appears she regularly drives the car the mile or so into Stroud town centre where she meets to plan the XR mayhem with fellow activists while sipping organic coffee at the Woodruffs Cafe from beans roasted in Ross-on-Wye by community groups.
A window next to the cafe also urges locals to practice yoga and ‘dancing with the trees’ in Stroud’s woodland.
Jacqi Smith, who helps run a local community centre and food bank in the town, said: ‘The people here do not have the capacity for Extinction Rebellion’
One might expect she would prefer to walk (30 minutes) or cycle (ten minutes) for such short journeys but her fondness for using the smog-emitting Citroen is evident from the number of pay-and-display receipts from Stroud District Council placed on the dashboard.
Dr Bradbrook, who says she favours electric-powered vehicles and public transport, has previously been challenged about using such an environmentally unfriendly vehicle but makes no apology insisting ‘it claimed to be a really green car at the time when I bought it.’
She has previously said that she cannot afford to replace it with a more environmentally friendly electric car.
Dr Bradbrook, who has a PhD in molecular biophysics, complains she needs it to ferry her two children to football and rugby because of a lack of public transport in her neighbourhood of Paganhill.
‘I can’t get my kids to sports fixtures, they are both into football and rugby. I do lots of lift sharing but I can’t get them there because we don’t have buses running through on a Sunday,’ she told Talk Radio.
But her home, where she lives alone, is less than 50 meters from a bus stop and local operators Stagecoach West runs its regular number 63 bus service seven days a week.
And the town’s railway station has services to Gloucester and Swindon which can then connect to other destinations like Cheltenham and London Paddington.
Stroud is dubbed ‘Hippy Central’ by some because of its large number of green businesses and New Age campaigners like the XR chief. But many residents, particularly older ones, have more conservative values and frown on these newer arrivals.
She meets in Stroud town centre to plan the XR mayhem with fellow activists while sipping organic coffee at the Woodruffs Cafe from beans roasted in Ross-on-Wye by community groups
Stroud is dubbed ‘Hippy Central’ by some because of its large number of green businesses and New Age campaigners
And Dr Bradbrook didn’t endear herself to such locals when she took a hammer to smash up a window of a branch of Barclays Bank in the town – where many volunteers have worked hard to smarten up the centre and didn’t like seeing it vandalised.
A sign within the diesel car of Dr Bradbrook outside her home
The attack stunt was proudly recorded on video and posted on the XR website with the headline ‘Extinction Rebellion co-founder Dr Gail Bradbrook breaks window at Barclays Bank in act of civil disobedience.’
After her arrest she was charged with criminal damage, which she denies. She appeared before Cheltenham magistrates and has been bailed to be tried by a jury in November.
The group claim that Barclays invest in fossil fuels and biodiversity and the losses amount to billions, and that their actions are helping to drive the climate and ecological emergency.
Dr Bradbrook, an academic with a PHD in molecular physics, founded the environmental group after an unlikely inspiration: it took an environmentally unfriendly 11,000 mile round trip to make her realise she needed to dedicate her lift to reducing emissions from the likes of the aviation industry.
That trip came in 2016 when she stayed at the £2,500 luxury New Life Iboga resort in Costa Rica where she sampled local psychedelic drugs ‘ayahuasca, iboga and kambo, in search of some clarity in her work.’
She posted on Facebook that her holiday was ‘filled with nature and the warm sea’ and sightings of exotic wildlife including iguanas and monkeys that ‘smash mangoes on the roofs’. And she later credited having taken the psychedelic drugs for ‘re-wiring’ her brain and giving her the codes for ‘social change.’
But Dr Bradbrook’s Central American trip had a carbon footprint of 2.6 tonnes – a quarter of the amount that the average Briton emits in a whole year.
Dr Bradbrook speaks to protesters at the corner of Langham Street with Great Portland Street in London in April 2019
Dr Bradbrook speaks from the front of the Department for Transport building in London during a protest in October 2019
Police officers detain Dr Bradbrook after she was removed from the Department of Transport in October 2019
On returning from Costa Rica, she met Roger Hallam and they jointly set up Extinction Rebellion to save the earth from contamination.
The Yorkshire-born campaigner has lived in Stroud since 2006, having first set up home in a Grade II-listed cottage with her husband a former RAF fighter pilot John Fisher.
Dr Bradbrook has been married twice and has two sons. She had a relationship with another XR founder Simon Bramwell who also lives in the Cotswolds.
But the marriage ended when the committed climate change warrior left the £400,000 home after returning from the Costa Rica trip.
Mr Fisher still lives in the cottage overlooking playing fields on the edge of the town and the couple share custody of their two young boys.
But Dr Bradbook moved to her current home, a modern three-bedroom house thought to be worth around £200,000- and soon let the gardens run wild.
Climate activists from the Extinction Rebellion group demonstrate outside the Bank of England in the City of London today
Extinction Rebellion climate activists take part in a protest outside the Bank of England in London this morning
Extinction Rebellion climate activists hold a banner during a protest outside the Bank of England in London this morning
The front garden has 10 foot high wild blackberry bushes and buddleia which are known to attract butterflies but are often associated with derelict land. The rear garden is similarly overgrown.
Arrests as protesters dye Buckingham Palace fountains red
Scotland Yard said arrests have been made after demonstrators released red dye into the Buckingham Palace fountains in protest at animal hunting.
Campaign group Animal Rebellion staged the protest at the Victoria Memorial water feature, which sits directly in front of the Queen’s London residence, on Thursday.
The group said it had dyed the fountains ‘blood red in a protest against use of crown land for hunting and animal agriculture’ during two weeks of events in the capital urging action on the climate crisis.
Animal Rebellion released red dye into the Buckingham Palace fountains in protest at animal hunting yesterday
The Metropolitan Police tweeted: ‘A number of activists have vandalised the Victoria Memorial water feature outside Buckingham Palace.
‘We are on scene and arrests have been made. The suspects are being taken to custody.’
Demonstrators were detained by police officers as they stood in the red water at the monument to Queen Victoria, with some holding flares and signs.
Harley McDonald-Eckersall, a spokesperson for Animal Rebellion, said: ‘Crown land should be used to grow healthy, nutritious food for all and to provide homes for the animals we share this country with.
‘We are demanding that the Queen end the use of crown land for industries which are contributing to the climate and ecological emergency and the death of animals.’
Extinction Rebellion began its Impossible Rebellion protests on Monday and is demanding the Government immediately ends investment in fossil fuels that are driving climate change.
A series of arrests have been made as the environmental group targeted areas across London, including Oxford Circus on Wednesday, bringing traffic to a standstill.
Scotland Yard said a ‘significant’ operation would be in place for the climate protests over the bank holiday weekend but also acknowledged the activists’ ‘important cause’.
But apart from two small posters in the windows, the modest house otherwise offers few clues that its occupant is one of Britain’s most militant environmentalists.
It has a satellite TV dish protruding at the back and a side wall separating the house from a corner green is giving way with bricks loosening and gaps appearing.
Asked about apparent contradictions between her lifestyle and her campaign, Dr Bradbrook told Mail Online: ‘I am not willing to continually waste energy answering questions scrutinising every decision I make in my life. It is a distraction from the real issues.
‘For the record, I have a diesel car because it was promoted by the manufacturer as being ‘eco’ at the time of purchase, and it isn’t possible to honour my commitments with the limited local public transport.’
She declined to comment on local bus services which run past her front door and past her parked car.
But told of criticism from neighbours about her overgrown and poorly maintained gardens, she said it was a deliberate design.
‘My re-wilded garden is home to birds, bees and butterflies and visited by hedgehogs. I’m glad to have this little haven to support nature. The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in Europe.’
She said she was not breaking any laws by parking her vehicle on a designated disabled bay and had received permission from the local authority.
She said: ‘The lady who owned the house before me was disabled and she is no longer alive. I contacted Gloucestershire County Council and asked what to do about her disabled parking spot. They came and covered over the road marking but it has worn away.’
She defended XR’s fortnight of disruption in the capital which has included animal rights protesters targeting a fountain at Buckingham Palace with red paint and claiming the Queen ‘has blood on her hands’
She added: ‘The life support systems of the earth are currently breaking down and the trajectory we are on is said by scientists to be towards the collapse of our civilization and half the world dying.
‘We have no choice. Change will come, either through a managed transition where people have a say or through the collapse of civilization.
‘What is needed is wholesale societal change, the kind of changes that happen when a country faces an existential threat, as we did in the second world war.
‘Only this threat is orders of magnitude greater than even that posed by Hitler. Eighty-five per cent of the British public believe climate change concerns us all.
‘We cannot afford at this time of our darkest hour, to be divided along the lines of who is a better Green than who.
‘It is irresponsible to give the impression that you are only allowed to care for the environment if you live perfectly within a deeply flawed system that forces all of us to make compromises.
‘We are all contributing to the crisis and can all be part of the solution, but for sure we can’t solve it by individual actions alone.
‘Only Governments working with business and people can make the scale of changes needed – but currently there is no credible plan.
‘Extinction Rebellion does not tell ordinary people what to do, we challenge governments to work through Citizens Assemblies to come up with solutions together.’