More than 1,000 protesters have staged a noisy march to the exploratory drilling site at the centre of anti-fracking protests in the heart of the West Sussex countryside.
Activists from across the country banged drums, chanted anti-fracking messages and held aloft banners on the outskirts of Balcombe, West Sussex.
A tense stand-off existed between protesters and a battery of police from forces across the UK who had formed a ring of steel around the Cuadrilla drilling site entrance.
Men, women and children chanted "This is what democracy looks like" and "There are many many more of us than you" as the convoy of campaigners marched along the road as a Sussex Police helicopter hovered overhead.
Cuadrilla, which has been conducting exploratory oil drilling near Balcombe, temporarily suspended its operation after taking advice from Sussex Police amid fears of unrest during the six-day Reclaim the Power camp, which began on Friday.
At last year's Reclaim the Power camp, organised by No Dash for Gas, West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire was shut down and 21 people were arrested.
Although Cuadrilla is not conducting fracking near Balcombe, and would need to apply for permission, protesters fear the energy firm will go on to do so.
Balcombe resident Douglas Wragg said: "Because we have here a travesty of democracy and we've tried every democratic path to use, the only choice we have left is direct action.
"I've been living here for 20 years and I would never have imagined myself being involved in protest. But you either lie down and let Cuadrilla ride roughshod over you, or take direct action."
Protester Emma Hughes said, "I'm here in solidarity with the community of Balcombe, and I'm here because we can't afford to extract new fossil fuels when climate change is already killing hundreds of thousands of people."
More than 45 arrests have so far been made since the protests first sprang up on the outskirts of Balcombe three weeks ago.
Of those, more than 30 have been charged with a range of offences, including Natalie Hynde, 30, the daughter of the Pretenders' singer Chrissie Hynde.
Police officers from 10 other forces have been drafted in as a large daily security operation has been thrown up to keep the peace.
On Friday, Sussex Police disclosed that the policing bill so far had almost reached £750,000, and that Home Office help was being sought to help with the cost.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves high pressure liquid being pumped deep underground to split shale rock and release oil or gas supplies.
Opponents of fracking have highlighted concerns about potential water contamination and environmental damage, as well as small-scale earthquakes.
Lord Browne, Cuadrilla's chairman and the former chief executive of BP, said the controversial extraction method should be pursued if it can be done safely.
He stressed that as much domestic resource should be explored as possible, saying it was more environmentally friendly than importing gas.
Lord Browne told the Sunday Telegraph: "This is about getting domestic resources. Domestic gas is more green than imported gas, and we need to explore as much domestic resource as we can.
"We need to be patient and very clear about what we want to do. It's a national purpose, it's right for our energy security, and, if done safely, we should pursue it."
David Cameron has insisted the whole country should accept fracking, claiming it will attract "real public support" when the benefits are explained, such as potentially cutting energy bills.
The Prime Minister said the process would not damage the countryside and cause only "very minor change to the landscape".
The Church of England has said it had no official policy in favour or against fracking but appeared to show tacit support by warning against "blanket opposition" to it.
The Anglican church said fuel poverty, the creation of jobs, energy self-sufficiency and the development of technology that could cut the impact of more polluting fuels such as coal needed to be taken into account when assessing shale gas exploration.
The debate over the benefits for and against fracking comes as activists continue to pour into the Reclaim the Power camp, about a mile from Cuadrilla's exploratory oil drilling site.
This weekend workshops were held on fracking, climate change and fuel poverty, and tents, marquees and solar-powered equipment were set up.
Following the march, there were a series of speakers, including Balcombe villager Vanessa Vine who started the campaign against fracking in the area.
She told the audience: "Whatever it is, it is potential ecocide. We've got red kites, dormice, great crested newts in the woodpile.Where are the authorities who are supposed to be protecting wild ecology?"
Before the march, activists listened to music, sat around campfires, cooked food for others and spoke about their concerns on fracking.
One man calling himself "the Music Police" arrived on a bike kitted with speakers blaring out music and implored the crowd to dance.
Elsewhere on the site, a woman dressed as a fairy wandered up and down the road, while a man dressed as a druid was among the other alternative sights.
At the Reclaim the Power camp a mile from the drilling site, where around 800 people have now gathered, No Dash for Gas campaigners said they were planning for the start of the two-day mass action, from tomorrow.
Organisers said the plans were "top secret" but that they pledged to use civil disobedience tactics to challenge the fracking industry.
People in the camp have all been given a "matchmaking form" to help link people up into ''action teams'' based on their interests and preferred tactics, No Dash for Gas said.
The form asks to what extent each person is willing to risk arrest, how mobile they are and what activities they are most interested in, such as climbing, getting over fences or looking after people.
Protester Paul Caplin said: ''The Government and Cuadrilla have no democratic mandate for fracking here in Balcombe, or anywhere else.
"These plans to industrialise the British countryside and extract yet more climate-wrecking fossil fuels were not in any party manifesto, contradict Government commitments to cut greenhouse gases and have been sprung on the public without consultation.
"It's perfectly possible to power the country and reduce people's bills with a mixture of efficiency and renewable energy, rather than these expensive and destructive fossil fuels that benefit no one but the energy companies."
Former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion near Balcombe, said the village was in the frontline in the "battle against climate change".
Speaking outside the drill site, she said: "We know from many research papers that if we go ahead in search of yet more fossil fuels then our chance of saving two degrees of warming become very, very slim indeed.
"We have to leave two-thirds of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, not be searching for more fossil fuels. I think it's hugely important that people from all over the world are here today giving solidarity."
She rebutted the claims that fracking could drive down energy bills.
Ms Lucas said: "It sounds impressive on the surface but if you look below the rhetoric, it's not really supported by the evidence.
"It's true that in the US fracking has helped to reduce gas prices. It's very likely that that would not be the case in the UK for lots of reasons that include the density of population, to do with geology, to do with how the European gas market is organised."
One woman protester from Balcombe, who declined to be named, said she decided to attend a protest for the first time in her life because she was fearful of the implications of fracking.
As she knitted by the roadside, she said: "There is no assurance that this is 100% safe. I don't want a 1% risk. If Cuadrilla go, there will be no risk."
Later, protesters formed a human chain around the perimeter fence surrounding the drilling equipment.
As they banged it, they chanted "Out, out, out". Beyond the fencing is another fence topped with razor wire.
A man dressed in a gorilla outfit and carrying a loudhailer directed protesters to fan out as police reinforcements moved in.
Following a half-hour stand-off, protesters marched back out of the field, which was growing Christmas trees, and back on to the main road.
Sussex Police said that despite the rise in protesters, only three arrests were made this weekend, all for incidents away from the main event.
Daniel Evans, 23, was arrested at Balcombe yesterday and been charged with using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour causing harassment, alarm or distress on Friday. He was bailed to appear at Crawley Magistrates' Court on August 28.
A 36-year-old man was arrested today on suspicion of using threatening words and behaviour outside the entrance to the Cuadrilla site on Wednesday. He was bailed to September 15.
A woman was arrested on suspicion of trespassing on the railway and was taken into police custody tonight, a police spokesman said.
A total of 48 arrests have been made since July 25 and 34 people have been charged.
Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs said: "Our officers, including colleagues from a number of other forces, have told me that the afternoon has had a carnival atmosphere and we have been able to facilitate around a thousand protesters.
"I am pleased that our policing operation has continued in a very similar vein to the last three weeks and in spite of the increased numbers we have only made three arrests this weekend.
"Two of those were for offences that occurred last week and the other one was for trespass on the railway at Balcombe Station.
"This was a singularly stupid thing to do, not only endangering themselves on the electrified third rail, but also the travelling public on fast-moving trains.
"However, these were isolated incidents away from today's main event and I should like to thank everyone who has taken part in the march this afternoon.
"They have shown that upwards of 1,000 people can make their point passionately, but peacefully and I sincerely hope that it has set the tone for the next few days.
"I know that Balcombe residents are very keen for the protest to remain peaceful and I'm sure that they will share our satisfaction."
He added: "Our priority remains the safety of everyone taking part and others in the area.
"The way in which we have policed the protest over the last three weeks has been generally well-received and we have been complimented on this by many of those who have been there throughout this period and people who have attended today's protest."