'Watership Down' - England Of Yesteryear

Trouble has found an English meadow. The lush, peaceful pastureland in Berkshire has been purchased by developers. Nature-hating machines and their men will soon arrive. The laying of tarmac and concrete, imminent.

The meadow's rabbit community is in denial and most are refusing to abandon their homes, for this they will answer to the bulldozers. But some - a small band of courageous rabbits - have elected to flee in search of a safer place to live. They will set off for the neighbouring county of Hampshire, undercover of night. Straying from their community is forbidden, not to mention the treacherous journey that awaits them. Will all of them make it to their chosen haven... Watership Down? The odds are not favourable, and they know it.

A bestselling book written in 1972 by Richard Adams. A full-length animated movie followed in 1978, which won a variety of awards. Renowned English actors John Hurt, Richard Briers and others supplied the voices of the rabbits and other characters. The film also featured the song 'Bright Eyes' by Art Garfunkel.

It seems about every three years that I feel the need to reach for my copy of Watership Down; each page devoured as if for the first time, including the Forward, Acknowledgements and Copyright information. Perhaps I can recite them verbatim. One day I might try.

Much of my playtime as a boy was spent outside, in fields, climbing trees, jumping streams, gawping at wildlife, exploring farmyards and getting into mischief. Today, I'm doing different things outdoors. Mostly I'm hanging out my car window screaming at imbecile drivers. I'm tearing along footpaths on my way to shops, the post office and train station, dodging dog dung, swinging umbrellas and Jehovah's Witnesses without much luck. The only wildlife I see has been flattened by imbecile drivers. Like almost everyone else, I demand a second term of childhood. I want to be a boy again, if only for one more summer.

I haven't been to the Hampshire Downs (see photo) - about a two hour drive from my home. The real Watership Down (yes it's a real meadow) is in there, somewhere. If I went I'd have to find it. Could it live up to the hopes that I have for it? Are there even any rabbits there? I'm certain there are.

What I know is that Watership Down the book, has magical powers. From the second I grab it off my shelf it plucks me out of now and plonks me back in then... my childhood. Captured within its pages are the places very similar, creatures and adventures I encountered as a boy...

The Hampshire Downs, England.
The Hampshire Downs, England. | Source

The Northamptonshire meadows I tore across with my friends chasing butterflies we never could catch, not once. The trees as big as space rockets I attempted to climb (I still have a scar on my forehead and right eyelid from falling). The farmers whom never tired of inventing new ways for keeping mischievous boys off their land. The scary foxes I sometimes glimpsed going about their business of scavenging and raising their cubs; for me they might just as well have been lions. And the rabbits. If I could have captured just one, I would have faced an angry mother for taking it home to be my pet (there wasn't money in our household for keeping animals).

Set almost anywhere else Watership Down would be a wonderful read. A view of the world through the eyes of animals that live around us - rabbits, birds, cats, dogs - must always be fascinating if written properly, which this is. The terrors wild animals face, rabbits in particular, plus man's cruelty add suspense and danger to this story.

But to be truly magical, as Watership Down is, it needs to be set in England. At its core is a simple story with a basic message. A tale of friendship, and bravery. The dialog rich with the peculiarities of Englishness. And remember too, English life of yesteryear was a simple affair. Needs, quite basic. Things were, and in some cases still are small and quaint here... cars, buildings, etc - all to be found in this book and all bringing the necessary 'smallness' needed to lift this story to its magical plane.

I don't think that Tom and Jerry - the greatest of American cartoons, for example - would work if it were English. Those two have been thrilling us for decades with their crazy antics. Who hasn't been at the edge of their seat while watching them going at it? The catchy dialog. The hatched plans born out of impulse. The tearing around the house like madness itself. Do you think that an English Tom and an English Jerry would carry on like that? Of course not! They'd probably call a truce by the end of the first cartoon and be best mates in the next one. Where's the fun in that? Long live Tom and Jerry.

And long live Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, Blackberry, Dandelion, Pipkin, Silver, Buckthorn and the other rabbits on their journey to Watership Down.


I printed off this review and all your wonderful comments and sent them off to Mr Adams. To my surprise (and obvious delight) his secretary wrote back to me. Here's her letter. I've blacked out his full address.

Guestbook 71 comments

SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 2 years ago from Arkansas USA

Loved reading your review!

siputkaya 2 years ago

great post to me...

tonyleather 2 years ago

Great review of a timeless masterpiece that ranks among the classics!

kroshkapim 2 years ago

Perfect! Thank you very much. Read with great interest.

Merrci profile image

Merrci 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

Love your review! Watership Down was a favorite of mine years ago. You've made me realize it's time to read it again. It sounds like an adventuresome childhood--so fun.

Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 2 years ago from Northampton Author

@Merrci: Merrci, yesterday when I wrote this it was green (published) but today it has gone to red (work-in-progress) Any ideas why that is? And anything I can do to get it green again?

CampingmanNW profile image

CampingmanNW 2 years ago

Watership Down was an excellent book. Thanks for sharing and bringing back those memories. As for going red? Squidoo's criteria for what passes and what doesn't, seems to change on a daily basis, don't fight it. Just copy, re-write and resubmit. No biggee The fact that your lens is here today to read, is testimony to the fact that it can be done. Congrats.

BritFlorida profile image

BritFlorida 2 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

Sent to the Spot On UK social media :)

Faye Rutledge profile image

Faye Rutledge 2 years ago from Concord VA

Thanks for this great review!

JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

JoanieMRuppel54 2 years ago from Keller, Texas

Beautifully written! When I read the book many years ago, I was mesmerized by a passage in the book describing moonlight and to this day when I look out over my yard in a full-lit moon, I think of that passage out of Watership Down. A classic indeed!

flycatcherrr profile image

flycatcherrr 2 years ago

I've never seen the film of Watership Down but must confess I cried my eyes out over the book... at the mature age of twenty-something when I first read it, and again on every re-reading. A brilliant book, and you've done it justice.

Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 2 years ago from Northampton Author

@flycatcherrr: @ flycatcher

I recommend seeing the film. It represents the book very well with just a couple of minor exclusions.

Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 2 years ago from Northampton Author

@BritFlorida: Wow. Thank you, comrade.

Ibidii 2 years ago

I have not seen the movie or read Watership Down. It is on my lists for sure! Thanks for this great lens to remind me. :D

athomemomblog profile image

athomemomblog 2 years ago from Guatemala

That movie scared the socks off me when I was a little kid, but as a teen, I read the book and loved it. I can't wait to share it with my sons.

salihajawaid 2 years ago

this inspired me to watch the movie foresure...:P

sybil watson 2 years ago

This is one of the best reviews I've ever read. You captured my attention from the very first sentence, and I loved all the details you included about being a boy racing around the English countryside. It's been years since I've read Watership Down, and now I'll have to get a new copy and read it again.

Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 2 years ago from Northampton Author

@sybil watson: Oh, my. Thank you. I do so appreciate it.

WhiteIsland profile image

WhiteIsland 2 years ago

I am reading this book for the first time. I always enjoyed Brian Jacques' Redwall series, as well. There's just something about stories from another perspective, and the characterization of the animals, that always fascinates.

Colin323 2 years ago

The film scared the bejezus out of my grandchildren when we all saw it for the first time recently; it's quite dark. I've never read the book, but may give it a go now; there is an illustrated edition in a slipcase that's a good looking beast in my local second-hand bookshop.

Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 2 years ago from Northampton Author

@Colin323: A little dark, it is, which gives it an edge most animated films don't have. I envy you for the illustrated edition, if you get it. Buy it and read it. Then if your grand kids don't want it I will have it off you for what you paid plus postage!

RoadMonkey profile image

RoadMonkey 2 years ago

Great review! Fantastic book and film

Wednesday-Elf profile image

Wednesday-Elf 2 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

Absolutely fantastic review of a special place in England that could only be portrayed by an Englishman who has experienced similar 'meadows' and remembers his 'childhood' times. A copy of Watership Down sits on one of my many bookcases and I now think it is time for a 're-read'.

P.S. I think my copy must be a very old one. The dust-jacket looks nothing like the one on the book shown here. :)

ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

ThreeQuarters2Day 2 years ago from Nebraska

I remember this book, must of read it at least three times. Nice review.

Snakesmum profile image

Snakesmum 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

Enjoyed the book and the film - must read it again soon.

Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 2 years ago from Northampton Author

@Wednesday-Elf: Thank you. It could be you have the original first edition book (old looking cover) if so I'd hang onto it if I were you! I'm jealous now!

Wednesday-Elf profile image

Wednesday-Elf 2 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

@Sir Daniel UK: The book says copyright 1972, the cover says 'Jacket design and text copyright 1974 Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. The cover is a light beige color and has a B&W pen & ink type drawing of a rabbit running across a meadow with an W - E direction symbol over the drawing. The title is in Red :)

Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 2 years ago from Northampton Author

@Wednesday-Elf: Just looked on your eBay and mine (US & UK) If your book is like the one in this link (US) then you're looking at about $100. Well done! The one in the link is $379 because it is a signed copy.


Northerntrials profile image

Northerntrials 2 years ago

This is still one of my favorite books. Fiver is a typical underdog. A good character for young readers (or old) to identify with.

Ruthi 2 years ago

Fabulous review! I read Watership Down ages ago but have not seen the film. You have me wanting to do both!

tfsherman lm profile image

tfsherman lm 2 years ago

I've read this book so many time I can't reread it any more, I know it so well. What a tragedy! And yet -- I probably will in another year or two. Among other wonderful things, it has such a great ending, like the Scouring of the Shire in Lord of the Rings. One resolution on top of an even better one.

Adventuretravels profile image

Adventuretravels 2 years ago from London UK

I love your review -you bring the very essence of this very sad book to life. I love how you write about the Northamptonshire meadows. Great review.

getupandgrow 2 years ago

Got to agree with adventuretravelshop here. "Watership Down," is a deeply sad book, (and film). Great lens though.

jmchaconne profile image

jmchaconne 2 years ago

I have to disagree with getupandgrow here; I thought it was an uplifting tale of adventure, and the overcoming of every obstacle, to ultimately create a thriving Warren, which Hazel lives, longer than most rabbits, to see prosper. Of course it has it's sad moments, but I found it inspiring. Of coarse, as many books we often read when we are younger, not until I'd lived enough life to appreciate it.

OhMe profile image

OhMe 2 years ago from Pendleton, SC

Ok. I think you really, really need to take that 2 hr ride and find the real Watership Down and let us know everything about it. I enjoyed this great review.

John Dyhouse profile image

John Dyhouse 2 years ago from UK

A very good review and a great analysis. i remember reading this many years ago and loving it.

Lionrhod profile image

Lionrhod 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

Awesome and well done! SOMEHOW I avoided reading WSD until about 10 years ago. When I did I was astonished.Amazing book that touches on the foibles of being human thru rabbit eyes. Would have never thought of it as a location. Now I'm kicking my butt for not suggesting Black Beauty! Take that as a complement because you redefined what "location" meant for me.

A most excellent review AND take on location.

Your creativity inspires me. Thank you so much for this wonderful review.

crystalwriter profile image

crystalwriter 2 years ago from Corydon, Indiana, USA

I haven't read this since childhood, but I imagine it must have had an effect on me since I still feel a fondness toward it. Your review makes me want to read it again, and it makes me want to see the movie. Great details and life in the review, and I love the comparison to Tom & Jerry.

MarcellaCarlton 2 years ago

I loved the book and this review. I read it when I was small and really appreciated the message. We all need a safe place. I must read it again.

Jo-Jackson profile image

Jo-Jackson 2 years ago

I adored the book, the movie, the Art Garfunkle song and your review. Nice work.

Arachnea profile image

Arachnea 2 years ago from Texas USA

I've not read Watership Downs. Your love for the book flows into your lovely review. Love the lens.

Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 2 years ago from Northampton Author

@Lionrhod: Humbled, I am. Thank you.

Sir Daniel UK profile image

Sir Daniel UK 2 years ago from Northampton Author

@crystalwriter: Thank you. Cannot recommend the animated movie enough. Only a couple of omissions from the book. Beautifully done film.

Fiorenza profile image

Fiorenza 2 years ago from UK

A lively and novel approach to a review. I read the book many years ago and have seen the film a few times, one of my favourites so nice to see your recommendation.

BarbRad profile image

BarbRad 2 years ago from Templeton, CA

Greet review, and I see why this book was so meaningful for you. I think it's about time for me to reread it.

Erin Mellor profile image

Erin Mellor 2 years ago from Europe

Congratulations on LotD!

OhMe profile image

OhMe 2 years ago from Pendleton, SC

Congratulations on LOTD!

Dressage Husband profile image

Dressage Husband 2 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

Great book and review. Yes, I take your point about where it was set here in Canada it would more likely be about a group of racoons as they are far more common than rabbits.

Well done on the LOTD. It was one of my favourites although I did not like Shardik his follow up.

Klaartje Loose profile image

Klaartje Loose 2 years ago

Ah, reading your lens makes me want to re-read the book, and this time in English!

Congrats on LOTD

GeorgeneMBramlage profile image

GeorgeneMBramlage 2 years ago from southwestern Virginia

Congratulations on your LOTD...this is a very fine review! Draws readers right into what is also an introspective book.

anonymous 2 years ago

I remember the series for children they made out of it and how I loved it back then. I've seen it and the movie so many times! Just started reading the book and it's never boring because it has such an amazing storyline. Great review!

shellys-space profile image

shellys-space 2 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

My son just finished reading Watership Down for his English class :)

boneworld profile image

boneworld 2 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

I loved this movie when I was young. I haven't seen it in years, but maybe I should take another look.

puppy-love profile image

puppy-love 2 years ago

I remember reading this in school as a kid, I think I might just pull it off the shelf again for a re-read. Thanks for the review! And congrats on the LOTD recognition, well deserved!

esmonaco profile image

esmonaco 2 years ago from Lakewood New York

Congratulations on your LOTD! Well done review :)

Brite-Ideas profile image

Brite-Ideas 2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

congratulations on LOTD - terrific review

MariaMontgomery profile image

MariaMontgomery 2 years ago from Central Florida, USA

What a wonderful book review. You reviewed the book; you did not try to retell the entire story, which is a mistake many people make. Excellent! I really enjoyed reading it. Congrats on LOTD.

irminia profile image

irminia 2 years ago

Absolutely fantastic book, thanks for reminiding me of it.

delia-delia profile image

delia-delia 2 years ago

Congratulations on LOTD! Nicely written review!

Merrci profile image

Merrci 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

Just had to stop by to say congrats on LotD! A great review on a wonderful book! It's good to see it on the front page!

anonymous 2 years ago

Well done. Congratulations on getting LotD!

SteveKaye 2 years ago

Congratulations on receiving the LOTD.

angliterario profile image

angliterario 2 years ago

I enjoyed reading your review, I've never heard of Watership Down, I'm from the Philippines, it probably didn't reach us. But it seems to be a pretty exciting book. Congratulations on your LotD!!

GrammieOlivia 2 years ago

I've never seen this, but it will be seen soon! Congratulations of LoTD!

SamuraiMarine profile image

SamuraiMarine 2 years ago from Bakersfield, Ca.

I remember reading this as a kid, under duress, as a task by my mother. I hated it... at the time.

Years later I had the misfortune of seeing the movie on TV and thinking, "That's not how I recall the book!" and I picked the book up and read it again. This time, since I was not being strong-armed into it, or being quizzed on it later, I loved it and it stands as one of my favorite books.

Good article and congrats on the LotD!

GuyB LM profile image

GuyB LM 2 years ago

What makes you like this book?

Lionrhod profile image

Lionrhod 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

Just checked back and noticed that you won LotD with this. Great job and congrats!

Blonde Blythe profile image

Blonde Blythe 2 years ago

I haven't read the book, but I love the movie. Wonderfully written lens! Congrats on your well-deserved LotD!

Colin323 2 years ago

I think the Squidoo community should know that Richard Adams, the author, contacted Sir Dan to congratulate him on this review. A great accolade; well done, Daniel, and well deserved too.

tazzytamar profile image

tazzytamar 2 years ago from chichester

Great lens - I still can't finish this book without blubbing everywhere. Wonderful review

SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 23 months ago from Arkansas USA

Back after 10 months to congratulate you on the comments from the author and letter from his PA. What a treasure!

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