The Real Watership Down Header

Near Cowslip's Warren,

in Summer 1987.


Sorry, this should be near Frith Copse.
As I neared Frith Copse, site of Cowslip's warren, I disturbed some deer.
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This is somewhere near Frith Copse, site of Cowslip's warren.

I had to leave my car some way from the site, and trek around a series of fields to get anywhere close to the copse. I took this photo, just a moment too late, halfway on that trek. Of all the warrens in the book, this one, twenty years ago at least, is the most remote, certainly the least accessible. The book suggests Cowslip's Warren was near to a farm, near enough for the farmer to be able to deliver flayrah every day. However, there are no farmsteads close by, and its difficult to tell which farm, if any, Adams had in mind.

Sorry, this should be the country near Cowslip's warren.
The country near Cowslip's warren.
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Mr. Adams is not very precise about locations.
We, Hazel's band of rabbits, would have passed
very close to here. The bean field may have been
about here. Crops change from year to year, this
looks like barley, but who knows, next year it
might be beans again! Though Mr. Adams is
not too clear about which beans!

Blackberry knows all sorts of interesting facts about Watership Down.
The reality on the ground is that Cowslip's Warren should have been rich in easily available food, and would have been the safest of all Watership Down's warrens. However, Watership Down is not reality, it's fiction, and in Adams' fictional world this was a dangerous place for rabbits.

Watership Down,

in July 1985.

Sorry, this should be Watership as seen from near Sydmonton Court.
Watership as seen from near Sydmonton Court.
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Watership Down is most easily approached by car from the A34. When coming from the south, as I usually did, you leave the A34 at the very start of the Newbury bypass and join the old A34 route for a little way before turning off east. That road then takes you past Sydmonton, along the bottom of the north slope of the downs. A mile or two later you come to Watership itself. I originally rejected this slide because it's a little under-exposed, which caused problems when I eventually scanned it.

Sorry, this should be Watership from the road.
Watership as seen from a little past the lane to Nuthanger farm.
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This is the view just past Watership on the same road. Nuthanger farm is to the right. A road runs north-south from Ecchinswell, up and over the gap between Watership and Hare Warren Downs, and on right through Ashley Warren farm, eventually going on to Efrafan country. That road and this one forms a crossroads right at the foot of Watership Down. The human significance of this 'Watership crossroads' is totally unknown to Adams' rabbits, so the crossroads doesn't feature in the book.

Sorry, this should be Watership from Nuthanger farmd.
Watership, from the hedge by the lane
to Nuthanger farm.
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Now, you're a rabbit, right? Ok, you're trying to get a dog to follow you to Watership Down. Which way do you go? Simple, you run straight down the man-track to the man-road. Does that sound right for a rabbit? No, of course it doesn't - you'd much more likely, even with a dog on your tail, slip into the field and run along the field side of the hedge alongside the road. That's what you see here. Nuthanger is just behind you, and the track runs on the other side of this hedge.

This site does get a mention, in chapter 25, 'The Raid', just after the raid has been prematurely disturbed by the farm workers:

'Dandelion immediately turned for the hedgerow. It was only when he crossed it and reached the ditch beyond that he realized that he was on the opposite side of the lane from that on which they had first approached. He was in a strange ditch. However, there seemed to be nothing to worry about - the ditch led down the slope and that was the way home. He moved slowly along it, waiting for Hazel to join them.'

The ditch has long since been filled in, as have moreorless all field ditches. Indeed it probably had been filled in long before Watership Down was written. Ditches point to a much early dating for Watership Down than 1966/7 when it was written, maybe instead to the 1930's when Adams was growing up and roaming the area.


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