Where is Watership Down?
Watership Down is a hill, or down, at Ecchinswell in the civil parish of Ecchinswell, Sydmonton and Bishops Green in the English county of Hampshire, as part of the Hampshire Downs. It rises fairly steeply on its northern flank (the scarp side), but to the south the slope is much gentler (the dip side).
The Down is best known as the setting for Richard Adams’ 1972 novel about rabbits, also called Watership Down. The area is popular with cyclists and walkers. A bridleway, the Wayfarer’s Walk cross county footpath, runs along the ridge of the Down which lies at the south-eastern edge of the North Wessex Downs Area of Natural Beauty. Other nearby features include Ladle Hill, on Great Litchfield Down, immediately to the west. Part of the hill is a 10.37 hectares (25.6 acres) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest, first notified in 1978. The hill has a partially completed Iron Age hill fort on its summit, and the surrounding area is rich in Iron Age tumuli, enclosures, lynchets and field systems. Further to the west lies Beacon Hill.
Watership Down is accessible via the large village of Kingsclere.
I read Richard Adams’ Watership Down for O Level. It was a book that examined different types of society but all the characters were rabbits. Many people may be familiar with this popular book and I’m sure some people are familiar with Martin Rosen’s animated adaptation, which came out in 1978. If you saw the movie Watership Down when you were a kid you might remember most notably the abundance of blood (for a cartoon about talking bunnies, it is a smidge on the gory side).
Watership Down, for those who are unfamiliar, is the story of some renegade rabbits. When the runty prophet rabbit, Fiver predicts bunny genocide, Hazel leads a group of fellow rabbits far away (against the wishes of their chief). The rabbits journey across the English countryside in search of a new warren, but the way is paved with trouble and bloodshed. There are other societies of rabbits with varying ideological positions on the nature of things and many battles will need to be fought before the end. Yes, they are bloody and it’s not exactly a kid’s movie.
There are some wonderful moments of suspense, peril, and surreal horror The rabbits’ relationship to their god, Frith, is a fascinating and touching representation of faith. Watership Down is not a sunny, happy Disney flick. It feels more like an historical account complete with myths and some original language (think Tolkien writing for a rabbit world).
Watership Down is, although notionally for children, in many respects an adult’s novel; or, rather, a novel that pulls children towards adulthood. It’s the story of a quest undertaken against one’s nature or inclinations – rather in the way that children often see the process of growth. Its first chapter has an epigraph from Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, which is an excellent example of not talking down to your audience.