The Real Watership Down Header

Watership Down - The bits Adams left out,

in October 1984.


Sorry, this should be the gallops on Watership Down.
The gallop, and TV transmitter, on Watership Down, in golden evening light.
High-res
This is the Watership Down Adams didn't tell us about. This is the main racehorse gallop on the top of the down. Adams does mention a gallop, but it's a very throwaway mention, and he gives the impression that the top of the down is narrow, with the honeycomb just a stone's throw from the edge of the down, as in this quote from chapter 19, 'Fear in the Dark'. Blackberry is speaking to Hazel:

"'...But there's a wood just over the top of the hill. I got a glimpse of it last night when we came. Suppose we go up higher now, just you and I, and have a look at it?'
They ran uphill to the summit. The beech hanger lay some little way off to the south-east, on the far side of a grassy track that ran along the ridge."

'Just over the hill' eh? Who's he kidding? You and I to be precise. You are now looking at what he left out. The edge of the down is off to the left, while the scrub 'hedge' alongside the 'grassy' (in fact chalk stoney) track is just visible on the extreme right. Adams joins the two together, missing all this out, which is just as well, as Adams gives the impression that Watership Down is a quiet, tranquil, lonely place:

'Well after dawn they were still sleeping, undisturbed in a silence deeper than they had ever known. Nowadays, among fields and woods, the noise level by day is high - too high for some kinds of animals to tolerate. Few places are far from human noise - cars, buses, motor-cycles, tractors, lorries. The sounds of a housing estate in the morning is audible a long way off. People who record bird-song generally do it very early - before six o'clock - if they can. Soon after that, the invasion of distant noise in most woodland becomes too constant and too loud. During the last fifty years the silence of much of the country has been destroyed. But here, on Watership Down, there floated up only faint traces of the daylight noise below.'

Sorry, this should be the gallop to the west, into the setting sun.
The gallop to the west, into the setting sun.
High-res
This is classic Adams - pronouncing sagistically and authoritatively on how bad we humans are. The trouble is that it's not quite true! For a start, bird-song recorders generally go out early because that's when most birds sing! Plenty do record during the day, quite successfully too, especially in woodland, even quite near urban areas. It's just that most birds don't do much singing during the bulk of the day.

If you were to go to Watership at or before six o'clock then you'd be in for a surprise. That's when these gallops are in full use. Beleive me, racehorses gong flat out make a lot of noise! As do the trainers shouting at the jockeys. So, in order for Adams' pronouncement to make sense he has to remove the gallops, and all their early morning noise and human disturbance, from Watership Down. With them gone the hanger is indeed 'just over the hill', and the rabbits, not nocturnal at this point, judging from Adams' description, can enjoy their blissful lay-in.

Then there's the Hannington TV transmitter mast visible in the first photograph. It doesn't fit the rural idyll Adams is trying to create, so it too is left out. To be honest, it doesn't intrude too much into the view - I could easily have digitally removed it from these photographs - but it does rather stick a metaphorical finger, or two, depending on where you come from, up to nature.

Sorry, this should be the rabbit proof fence on Watership.
The rabbit proof fence on Watership.
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This is a photograph that clashes with people's ideas of what Watership Down is all about. This is Watership as Efrafa. The beech hanger is fenced off from the rest of the down by this fence. It's only about a metre (three feet) high, but it is dug into the ground. In fact it's rabbit proof. I took this at the same time as the other photograph of the hanger from above this fence, giving the impression that the hanger was open. This photograph gives a different impression. Which is the truth? Both are....

There are just a few more photographs - Another view of the railway arch, and of Watership Down.


ReturnClick Bigwig here to return to select another location. It might be best to avoid his ears, his fleas live there!