''There are some big trees there,' said Blackberry. 'the roots must have broken up the ground pretty deep. We could dig holes and be as well off as ever we were in the old warren. But if Bigwig and the others won't dig or say they can't - well, it's bare and bleak here. That's why it's lonely and safe, of course; but when bad weather comes we shall be driven off the hills for sure.'...'
'...During silflay, however, Hazel mentioned Blackberry's idea to no one but Fiver. Later on, when most of the rabbits had finished feeding and were either playing in the grass or lying on the sunshine, he suggested that they might go across to the hanger - 'just to see what sort of a wood it is'. Bigwig and Silver agreed at once and in the end no one stayed behind.'
'It was different from the meadow copses they had left: a narrow belt of trees, four of five hundred yards long but barely fifty wide; a kind of wind-break common on the downs.'Watership Down, and indeed all of the downs so associated with southern England, may appear to be a natural place, wild and untouched by the hand of man. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Watership Down is not quite ‘a high lonely
place where man hardly ever comes’ as Fiver describes it in the 1978 film. At times, particularly at the weekends, the down hums,
maybe even buzzes with human activity, not
to mention, which Adams doesn’t, the
racehorses that thunder along the gallops
most mornings. Watership Down is
not all that quiet at all!
Watership Down lies some fifty miles north of my home, the other ridge of downs lies less than half a mile to the south of me as I sit and type this. The thin acidic, chalky and flinty soil (flint being formed as a metamorphic product of chalk when it is squeezed and crushed) make downs unsuitable for most crops, however they can support thin grass which is suitable for grazing of sheep. Indeed the name Watership is said to be derived from Water Sheep, i.e. a watering place for sheep. If you looked carefully at the soil at your feel you would find it full of chalk and flint fragments. The rabbits would have found it hard going to dig below about a foot, down there the chalk is often solid and impenetrable. The down is continually managed as it is used for racehorse training, as you can see in the top photograph and even today for sheep pasture, did you see them as you approached and climbed the down? No? Well its time to move on and examine the hanger a little more closely.