A couple of days ago, I did something I’ve always wanted to do: I visited the real life Watership Down.
When I was a little kid, I won a copy of this book. I was hooked right away and I re-read it every year. I know many people saw the Watership Down animated movie way too young and were traumatized. It’s too bad, because the book, while dark in places, is a ripping adventure story with fun characters and a lot of natural history and environmentalism woven in. It’s like if Moby Dick starred the whales.
Like a lot of fantasy books, this one begins with an intricate map. But unlike a lot of fantasy books, Watership Down is 100% set in a real place.
I followed this route. Here’s what I saw.
At the base of the down, sheeps abounded!
There’s no official sign for the path up the Down. Someone has helpfully written “Watership Down” on the path sign in sharpie. Note the Hazel-Rah tag on the left.
There was a lot of wildlife. I saw red kites, deer, pheasants, partridges, wood pigeons, and a hare. No rabbits, but apparently they come out in the evening.
The hike up was wet and muddy. But the view from the top was so, so beautiful.
“Come and look! You can see the whole world.”
Though many of the wildflowers had passed, I found all sorts of plants that inspired the names in the book. Just watch out for stinging nettle and hogweed beside some of the paths!
At the top of the Down, there’s a baby hazel tree surrounded by a small wooden fence with a plaque honoring the author, Richard Adams. It’s nothing fancy that might detract from the wide, green, breezy place. Just perfect. Bigwig had even taken a moment to tag it, which was also perfect.
I don’t think I’ve ever geeked out this hard. Watership Down was EXACTLY like I pictured it, and I spotted a lot of the places mentioned in the book. If you loved this story as a kid, and you have a chance to visit, do it.
This is so cool!
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