Of course, I wasn't following the rabbits' route directly up the face of the Down, but nevertheless there was WD interest, since this was the road that Dr Adams and Lucy drove up on their way to release Hazel in "Dea ex Machina." I would, of course, be leaving it at the summit in order to walk along Watership Down itself, but Dr Adams was continuing to "see an old lady at Cole Henley," which (as the road-sign said) is four miles from the crossroads pictured on the previous page. "A burrow outside a cottage garden near Cole Henley" was also where General Woundwort was born.
However, Cole Henley was off the agenda for today, so let's turn our attention back to the road itself. After a short flattish section, beyond Shepherd's Cottage (clearly visible to the right) the road became considerably steeper - that arrow on the OS map indicates a gradient of more than 14% (about 1:7). As the map also shows, the road became bounded by open woodland; light, airy and with plenty of space for rabbits to run in. The photo below is fairly representative, and shows the lane's eastern edge.
I felt like a bit of a break by now, and this pleasant part of the journey seemed like an excellent place to have one, all the more so as I was about to have another encounter with the pylon line. Unlike some of its type, it made no noise at all, but even so one can imagine the rabbits' trepidation as they saw towering over them the giant metal structure. Here, I fished out my CD-Walkman and played Climbing the Down, as that seemed rather appropriate. =:)
A little way further on, there was a small wood to the right of the lane, but beyond that the views to the west opened out, and it was here that one of the most memorable parts of the entire day occurred. A bottled-gas lorry came down the hill towards me, startling a large rabbit who bolted across the road, right to left, straight in front of me and disappeared into the safety of the woods beyond. So, there really were rabbits on Watership Down! =:D
Better was to come, however, as by now the road was hugging the western slopes of Watership, and there were fine views down into the valley and across to Hare Warren Down. As I was admiring the view, a movement in the corner of my eye instantly put me on full alert. Could it be? The binoculars were out of the bag in a flash, and once I had positioned myself in the shade to avoid the danger of accidentally looking at the sun, I trained them on the moving blobs. My instincts had been right; three or four rabbits were chasing around in an exuberant manner on the grassy floor below.
The photo above gives a fairly good impression of what I could see from the edge of the lane. In the foreground, Watership Down itself slopes down into the valley, whilst beyond rises Hare Warren Down. I didn't actually realise it until I came to do the scanning for this, but in fact there is a rabbit in the picture! It's barely visible even in the large version of the pic, but I have put a red circle around its location (in the full-size photo only).
I mentioned at the start of this page that the ridge between Watership and Hare Warren Downs was the place where Hazel was released at the end of the book. Well, in my final picture for this section (below) you can see this area for yourself, to the left-hand side of the photo. The road itself is just out of sight to the left, and again Hare Warren Down is to the right. A little way beyond here came the sharp left turn onto the Wayfarer's Walk bridleway, which would lead me onto the summit of Watership Down.
Copyright © David "Loganberry" Buttery 2004. Updated 05/04/04.