On Gallows Down
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The story of a life shaped by landscape; of an enduring love of nature and the fierce desire to protect it – living as part of the rural working class in a ‘tied cottage’ on a country estate – and what it takes to feel like you belong. ‘On Gallows Down’ is a book about hope – from the rewilding of Greenham Common after the missiles left to how, as a new mother, Nicola walked the chalk hills to give her children roots, teaching them names and waymarks to find their way home. It is about the songs of the nightingale and cuckoo – whose return she waits for – the red kites, fieldfares, skylarks and lapwings that accompany her, the badger cubs she watches at night and the velvety mole she finds in her garden.
“It’s ever so good. Political, passionate & personal.”-Robert Macfarlane (via Twitter), author of Underland
Part nature writing, part memoir,Â On Gallows DownÂ is an essential, unforgettable read for fans of Helen Macdonald, Terry Tempest Williams, and Robin Wall Kimmerer.
“I couldn’t put it down! A must read!”-Dara McAnulty (via Twitter), author ofÂ Diary of a Young Naturalist
Nicola Chester won theÂ BBC Wildlife Magazine‘s Nature Writer of the Year Award – this is her first book.
On Gallows DownÂ is a powerful, personal story shaped by a landscape; one that ripples and undulates with protest, change, hope – and the search for home.
From the girl catching the eye of the “peace women” of Greenham Common to the young woman protesting the loss of ancient and beloved trees, and as a mother raising a family in a farm cottage in the shadow of grand, country estates, this is the story of how Nicola ChesterÂ came to write – as a means of protest. The story of how she discovered theÂ rich seam of resistance that runs through her village of Newbury and its people – from the English Civil War to the Swing Riots and the battle against the Newbury Bypass. And the story of the hope she finds in the rewilding of Greenham Common after the military left, the stories told by the landscapes of Watership Down, the gallows perched high on Inkpen Beacon and Highclere Castle (the setting of Downtown Abbey).
Nature is indelibly linked to belonging for Nicola. She charts her story through the walks she takes with her children across the chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs, though the song of the nightingale and the red kites, fieldfares, skylarks and lapwingsÂ that accompany her; the badger cubs she watches at night; the velvety mole she discovers in her garden and the cuckoo, whose return she awaits. On Gallows DownÂ tells of how Nicola came to realize that it isÂ sheÂ who can decide whereÂ sheÂ belongs, for home is a place in nature and imagination, which must be protected through words and actions.
“We are writing for our very lives and for those wild lives we share this one, lonely planet with.“-Nicola Chester
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