I’ve been up and down the A34, north and south between Winchester and Newbury, all my life. It’s the road to take when you want to head west, and I always want to head west! Little did I know that for all that time, I had been travelling past a fixture of my early years, Watership Down.I loved the film as a child, such and adventure with moments of genuine terror. As a teenager, I picked up my parent’s early edition, but didn’t get past the first pages. However, I recently got a beautiful 40th anniversary edition which I ploughed through at a pace. It’s a fabulous read, with all the pace and derring-do of the film, but with additional depth and detail in the rabbit’s story. Most of all, now I luxuriated in the descriptions of the landscapes of the south of England I know so well.
So the next free day on the mainland, I corralled the family into a Watership Down walk. We started in a well-heeled Hampshire village, but soon emerged into the country lanes and already overgrown footpaths. Downs are never too high, but they are often steep, and this proved the case here. The route we took lead through a beautiful sun-dappled Beech hanger, so a slow pace was just fine.We spotted proper literary landmarks: Nuthanger Farm, from where the dog was released upon the Efrafan aggressors; Frith Copse seen in the distance from the top of the hill, probably home to a warren or two now.
It was a lovely walk, catching up with family, enjoying the abundance of early summer life and recalling memories of book and film. The only slight disappointment was the lack of lapin; the only rabbity view we caught was a bright white bottom scuttling into a hedgerow. The butterflies were a nice consolation though!