A feisty OAP had her false teeth knocked out when she was thrown to the floor by travellers as she tried to stop them entering a popular nature reserve.
Heroic Sarah Freeman, 73, wrapped herself around the gate as they tried to move their seven caravans through the entrance to the park.
She was left badly bruised as the men pushed her over and tried to prise her fingers away from the lock.
Sarah said: “I wrapped myself around the barrier and they were trying to force me to let go.”
“They picked me up and forced me to the ground – my false teeth actually fell out.
“They were trying to get the lock open, but I wouldn’t let them.”
Sarah was walking her two dogs at the Hilly Fields nature reserve in Colchester, Essex, on Thursday when she saw the group pull up at the entrance.
She watched several men attempted to force the gate open and thought “enough is enough”.
Running towards the group of men, Sarah wrapped herself round the gate preventing the travelers access.
She stayed there for half an hour before the police arrived and the travellers gave up.
Sarah told how several dog walkers took pictures of the clash, but many seemed afraid to step in.
“My adrenaline was shrieking,” she said.
“There were three men trying to get me off the gate and one really nasty lady saying awful things.
“People were just watching and urging me on.
“After a while the police turned up and the caravans were trying to turn around and leave.
“My family were not too happy with my actions – they were cross that I had intervened and put myself in the way.”
Sarah decided to protect the much-loved beauty spot when she remembered a similar group had arrived on the land last year.
She said: “I recalled a group were on Hilly Fields last year – it was very similar as they gained entry the same way.”
“I have no particular objection to travellers.
“But when they were here last year there were fires lit, rubbish dumped and human excrement left behind.
“I live near Abbey Field and I know a group of French travellers left their rubbish in bin bags last year.
“I thought of this while I was watching all these vans pull up and thought ‘not again.’ “I wrapped myself around the gate and I wasn’t going to let go if it killed me.
“But you don’t expect anyone to manhandle a 73-year-old woman in order to break-in.
“I have bruising up my left arm.
“I think it’s quite cunning – they removed a bollard and I think someone had already been there trying to remove the padlocks in preparation.”
James Peters, 46, lives just yards away from the popular nature reserve, witnessed the whole ordeal.
The stunned resident was sat in his camper-van by the gate when the travelllers arrived at around 10:30am and watched as the brave pensioner made her stand.
He said: “If it hadn’t been for that lady without a doubt that whole field would be full of travellers, it was truly remarkable.
“There was a long row of caravans and I was sitting in my van about three meters away- the woman came running up and wrapped herself around the gate.
“They were pushing her and shoving her and they threw her to the ground.
“I thought it was outrageous.
“They came over and started threatening me, it was mayhem.
“They saw me filming and tried to break into my van.”
He added: “It was voting day, so the road was quite busy as there is a polling station there.
“There was a stream of caravans blocking the road.
“Sarah was holding on to the gate for dear life doing all in her power to stop them entering.”