One of the (many) wonderful features of Watership Down is that it is set entirely in real southern English countryside. That means that, subject to the usual rules of access (Public Rights of Way and so on), you can follow a good deal of the rabbits' journeys yourself. I started my own pilgrimage in the attractive village of Kingsclere, easily accessible on the number 32/32A bus that runs hourly between Newbury and Basingstoke; a return from Newbury costs £4.30. The signpost pictured below (no, it's not falling over; I was holding the camera at an angle!) told me that I was six miles from Overton; this was the point at which, being without a car, I abandoned any thoughts of getting to the Efrafa/River Test portion of the area in the same day.
Kingsclere is a useful base, since not only is it geographically handy for the Down area, but it is also just about big enough to support a few local services: aside from the church, there are toilets (which I found basic but clean), a couple of shops, a café and a pub. As is evident from the sky in the above picture, it was a beautiful day, and unseasonably warm for late March, and so I went into the shop to get some cold drinks. £1.09 for a 500ml bottle was very steep, but nevertheless I wouldn't have wanted to have been without a good deal of drink.
Above you see the Ecchinswell Road that I took out of Kingsclere. If you look closely at the signpost on the left, you'll see that the side-road leads off to Sydmonton. I stayed on the road to the right, which at this point (though not for much further) was quite cool and shady. A little beyond the corner on the right-hand side of the road is a small cemetery, and here I was very pleased to see a certain yellow flower in bloom. My photo hasn't come out all that well, but I'm putting it in anyway.
After the cemetery, the road became rather wider and also well surfaced, which was good in that walking was easy and that you could get well out of the way of passing cars, but bad in the sense that the quality of the road encouraged drivers to go too fast. There were big grassy verges, though, so I didn't feel in any danger from the traffic. As I mentioned a minute ago, there were many fewer trees by the roadside now; instead what we got was almost archetypal southern English hedgerow-country. The photo below, taken at the theoretical boundary of Ecchinswell (though a long way short of the built-up area), gives a good impression of what much of this lane was like.
At one point, somewhat before the Ecchinswell boundary, I passed under a pylon line - it didn't really register at the time, but this was in fact the pylon line. We shall, of course, encounter that again later - more than once, in fact!
Copyright © David "Loganberry" Buttery 2004. Updated 03/04/04.