The Real Watership Down Header

The Sandleford Warren,

in March 1982.


This is a general view of the Sandleford Warren site.
Sandleford, looking towards the warren site.
High-res
From chapter 1, 'The Notice Board':

'The Primroses were over. Towards the edge of the wood where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow still showed among the dog's mercury and oak tree roots. On the other side of the fence, the upper part of the field was full of rabbit holes. In places the grass was gone altogether and everywhere there were clusters of dry droppings, through which nothing but the ragwort would grow. A hundred yards away, at the bottom of the slope, ran the brook, no more than three feet wide, half-choked with king-cups, water-cress and blue brook-lime. The cart track crossed by a brick culvert and climbed the opposite slope to a five barred gate in the thorn hedge. The gate led into the lane.'

These are the first of over 190,000
words that are "Watership Down". They took
fifteen months to write by hand with fountain
pen on foolscap paper; six months to edit and
type; ten months to be accepted for
publication, and two years more to
finally get into print.
In all "Watership Down" took five years
to go from an idea to a book.

Blackberry knows all sorts of interesting facts about Watership Down.
This is the opening paragraph of Richard Adams's Watership Down. He wrote those words in the mid-sixties. Twenty years later the scene, though changed, was still very recognizable. Here you are looking towards the site of the Sandleford Warren; that's it over there on the opposite slope beyond the hedge. Compare this with the opening of the film. In the book, the gate and the notice board are out of sight to the left behind the copse by which you are standing; in the film they are moved to just to the left of the end of the hedge, where no humans could have seen it! The cart-track is long gone, as indeed are horse-drawn carts, however the culvert crossing the brook is still there but is hidden by the tree on the left. Many readers think that this area has been developed and expect to see a housing estate here but no, the fate of the Sandleford Warren in Watership Down has not yet been forced on it's real life counterpart.

Looking towards the brick culvert at the Sandleford Warren site.
Sandleford, with the culvert centre-left and gate just off picture to the left.
The cart-track is gone, becoming just another part of the field.
High-res

I've just stepped out away from the trees and can now see round to the culvert which Graham, who accompanied me on some of my visits, can be seen photographing. The end of the hedge is just visible on the extreme right. The once five-barred wooden gate to the lane, now a galvanised steel tubular thing, which we unknowingly had just walked up are off to the left. If we had known that at the time.... The town of Newbury starts just beyond the trees that can be seen in the distance.

Since I took this picture in 1982, man has encroached close to the warren. The field between the patchy hedge and the trees in the distance is now Newbury Rugby Club and a doctor's surgery.

You can also see Sandleford on Google maps.

The brick culvert at the Sandleford Warren site.
This is what Graham was photographing: the brick culvert at Sandleford.
High-res
This, the brick culvert described by Adams, was what confirmed to us that we had indeed found the Sandleford warren site. At least we were no more than 100 yards away. Perhaps the best match to the description and the film for the warren itself is by the bushes in the distance centre-right. This also makes sense as it is west-facing - into the perfect silflay-sunset - and the lane and gate is behind the camera.
ReturnClick Bigwig here to return to select another location. It might be best to avoid his ears, his fleas live there!