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 careening 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. Photo used under Creative Commons from Les Chatfield.

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 by taking it home to be my pet (there was no 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.

Watership Down Film Trailer - 1978.

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  • anna-hofman-98 Apr 16, 2014 @ 11:38 am
    Great lens - I still can't finish this book without blubbing everywhere. Wonderful review
  • Colin323 Apr 16, 2014 @ 10:46 am
    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.
  • Blonde_Blythe Mar 30, 2014 @ 9:05 pm
    I haven't read the book, but I love the movie. Wonderfully written lens! Congrats on your well-deserved LotD!
  • Lionrhod Mar 30, 2014 @ 9:58 am
    Just checked back and noticed that you won LotD with this. Great job and congrats!
  • GuyB Mar 29, 2014 @ 4:57 pm
    What makes you like this book?
  • SamuraiMarine Mar 20, 2014 @ 2:45 am
    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!
  • grammieo Mar 18, 2014 @ 9:45 pm
    I've never seen this, but it will be seen soon! Congratulations of LoTD!
  • angliterario Mar 18, 2014 @ 8:22 pm
    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!!
  • Steve_Kaye Mar 18, 2014 @ 7:48 pm
    Congratulations on receiving the LOTD.
  • rauspitz Mar 18, 2014 @ 7:09 pm
    Well done. Congratulations on getting LotD!
  • Merrci Mar 18, 2014 @ 6:55 pm
    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!
  • d-artist Mar 18, 2014 @ 5:45 pm
    Congratulations on LOTD! Nicely written review!
  • irminia Mar 18, 2014 @ 4:26 pm
    Absolutely fantastic book, thanks for reminiding me of it.
  • Mia-Mia Mar 18, 2014 @ 2:04 pm
    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.
  • Brite-Ideas Mar 18, 2014 @ 1:34 pm
    congratulations on LOTD - terrific review
  • esmonaco Mar 18, 2014 @ 12:07 pm
    Congratulations on your LOTD! Well done review :)
  • quiz_queen Mar 18, 2014 @ 11:13 am
    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!
  • boneworld Mar 18, 2014 @ 10:55 am
    I loved this movie when I was young. I haven't seen it in years, but maybe I should take another look.
  • CosmeticMom Mar 18, 2014 @ 10:23 am
    My son just finished reading Watership Down for his English class :)
  • Mar 18, 2014 @ 9:43 am
    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!
  • Cercis Mar 18, 2014 @ 9:35 am
    Congratulations on your LOTD...this is a very fine review! Draws readers right into what is also an introspective book.
  • klaartje-loose Mar 18, 2014 @ 9:15 am
    Ah, reading your lens makes me want to re-read the book, and this time in English!
    Congrats on LOTD
  • StephenJParkin Mar 18, 2014 @ 7:37 am
    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.
  • OhMe Mar 18, 2014 @ 6:57 am
    Congratulations on LOTD!
  • ErinMellor Mar 18, 2014 @ 5:10 am
    Congratulations on LotD!
  • BarbRad Mar 12, 2014 @ 9:05 pm
    Greet review, and I see why this book was so meaningful for you. I think it's about time for me to reread it.
  • peterduck Mar 12, 2014 @ 9:34 am
    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.
  • Arachnea Mar 11, 2014 @ 9:03 pm
    I've not read Watership Downs. Your love for the book flows into your lovely review. Love the lens.
  • AussieWriter Mar 11, 2014 @ 7:59 pm
    I adored the book, the movie, the Art Garfunkle song and your review. Nice work.
  • MarcellaCarlton Mar 11, 2014 @ 3:27 pm
    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.
  • crystalwriter Mar 11, 2014 @ 2:10 am
    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.
  • Sir_Daniel_UK Mar 12, 2014 @ 4:32 am
    Thank you. Cannot recommend the animated movie enough. Only a couple of omissions from the book. Beautifully done film.
  • Lionrhod Mar 10, 2014 @ 9:09 pm
    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.
  • Sir_Daniel_UK Mar 12, 2014 @ 4:06 am
    Humbled, I am. Thank you.
  • artyfax Mar 10, 2014 @ 1:56 pm
    A very good review and a great analysis. i remember reading this many years ago and loving it.
  • OhMe Mar 07, 2014 @ 4:32 am
    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.
  • jmchaconne Mar 05, 2014 @ 8:33 pm
    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.
  • getupandgrow Mar 04, 2014 @ 11:14 am
    Got to agree with adventuretravelshop here. "Watership Down," is a deeply sad book, (and film). Great lens though.
  • adventuretravelshop Feb 27, 2014 @ 6:50 pm
    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.
  • tfsherman Feb 22, 2014 @ 8:47 pm
    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.
  • Ruthi Feb 22, 2014 @ 8:19 pm
    Fabulous review! I read Watership Down ages ago but have not seen the film. You have me wanting to do both!
  • northerntrials Feb 22, 2014 @ 4:56 pm
    This is still one of my favorite books. Fiver is a typical underdog. A good character for young readers (or old) to identify with.
  • Snakesmum Feb 21, 2014 @ 11:07 pm
    Enjoyed the book and the film - must read it again soon.
  • 3QuartersToday Feb 21, 2014 @ 9:24 pm
    I remember this book, must of read it at least three times. Nice review.
  • Wednesday_Elf Feb 21, 2014 @ 8:26 pm
    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. :)
  • Sir_Daniel_UK Feb 22, 2014 @ 2:53 am
    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 Feb 22, 2014 @ 7:22 am
    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 Feb 22, 2014 @ 9:35 am
    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.

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Watership-Down-by-Richard-Adams-1972-First-Edition-SIGNED-BY-RICHARD-ADAMS-/291085764184?pt=US_Fiction_Books&hash=item43c6104658
  • RoadMonkey Feb 21, 2014 @ 3:25 pm
    Great review! Fantastic book and film
  • Colin323 Feb 21, 2014 @ 2:29 pm
    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 Feb 21, 2014 @ 2:33 pm
    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!
  • WhiteIsland88 Feb 21, 2014 @ 2:29 pm
    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.
  • sybil-watson Feb 21, 2014 @ 1:57 pm
    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 Feb 21, 2014 @ 2:01 pm
    Oh, my. Thank you. I do so appreciate it.
  • salihajawaid Feb 21, 2014 @ 12:42 pm
    this inspired me to watch the movie foresure...:P
  • athomemomblog Feb 21, 2014 @ 12:19 pm
    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.
  • ibidii Feb 21, 2014 @ 11:10 am
    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
  • flycatcher Feb 21, 2014 @ 10:24 am
    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 Feb 21, 2014 @ 10:41 am
    @ flycatcher

    I recommend seeing the film. It represents the book very well with just a couple of minor exclusions.
  • jsr54 Feb 21, 2014 @ 9:55 am
    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!
  • partybuzz Feb 21, 2014 @ 9:35 am
    Thanks for this great review!
  • britflorida Feb 21, 2014 @ 9:11 am
    Sent to the Spot On UK social media :)
  • Sir_Daniel_UK Feb 21, 2014 @ 10:44 am
    Wow. Thank you, comrade.
  • campingman Feb 21, 2014 @ 8:55 am
    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.
  • Merrci Feb 21, 2014 @ 8:00 am
    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 Feb 21, 2014 @ 8:07 am
    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?
  • kroshkapim Feb 21, 2014 @ 7:59 am
    Perfect! Thank you very much. Read with great interest.
  • tonyleather Feb 21, 2014 @ 7:48 am
    Great review of a timeless masterpiece that ranks among the classics!
  • siputkaya Feb 21, 2014 @ 7:48 am
    great post to me...
  • Susan52 Feb 20, 2014 @ 4:48 pm
    Loved reading your review!