On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging


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On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging Author: Format: Paperback / softback First Published: Published By: Chelsea Green Publishing UK
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Pages: 256 Language: English ISBN: 9781915294067 Categories: , , , Tags: ,

It is the place I come from and the place I got to. It is family. Wherever I am, it is home and away, an escape, a bolt hole, a reason, a place to fight for, a consolation, and a way home. As a child growing up in rural England, Guardian Country Diarist Nicola Chester was inexorably drawn to the natural landscape surrounding her. Walking, listening and breathing in the nature around her, she followed the call of the cuckoo, the song of the nightingale and watched as red kites, fieldfares and skylarks soared through the endless skies over the chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs: the ancient land of Greenham Common which she called home.

Nicola bears witness to, and fights against, the stark political and environmental changes imposed on the land she loves, whilst raising her family to appreciate nature and to feel like they belong – core parts of who Nicola is. From protesting the loss of ancient trees to the rewilding of Greenham Common, to the gibbet on Gallows Down and living in the shadow of Highclere Castle (made famous in Downton Abbey), On Gallows Down shows how one woman made sense of her world – and found her place in it.

Shortlisted for the Richard Jefferies Award 2021 for best nature writing.

Political, passionate and personal.’ Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland

Weight0.567 kg


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"From treetop protests at the Newbury Bypass to the grand Highclere Estate, On Gallows Down is that rare thing: nature writing as political as it is personal."-Melissa Harrison, author of The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary "A powerful personal and political journey through place that charts the profound influence we have on nature, and that nature has on us."-Rob Cowen, author of Common Ground and The Heeding "An evocative and inspiring memoir which touches on environmental protest, family, motherhood and most importantly, nature. Her passion for the natural world and especially birds, shines through in this wonderful book."-Claire Fuller, author of Unsettled Ground "Nicola Chester deserves many readers. On Gallows Down is an impassioned study of a contested landscape, which interrogates our attitudes towards land stewardship, ownership and living in the right relationship with both human and other-than-human neighbours. Charged with love and fire, On Gallows Down is a beautiful exploration of a much-mapped, multi-faceted landscape."-Katharine Norbury, author of The Fish Ladder "Chester's writing has a lovely elasticity, dancing between wonder, introspection and anger as she moves from the particular to the universal...She belongs to the disappearing English, rural working class, and is intent on handing this baton to her three children, who play a part in the book. Chester also explores the familiar tension between wanting to write and being needed at home. The heady ecstasy of time carved out alone, in nature. The scrabble to earn a precarious living, and the insecurities of occupying a tied cottage. The idea of 'home' lies at the heart of this fierce, beautifully written, immersive book about one's place within the landscape."-Tessa Boase, author of Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds "Nicola's passionate and enduring love of nature shines through every single word, paragraph and page of this book, as she seamlessly weaves memoir with stories of the landscape in which she is so deeply rooted that it seems to speak through her. Powerful, enlightening, dazzling, hopeful, On Gallows Down is a rare and precious gem - to be savoured, not rushed, and returned to again and again. My words cannot do this book justice - it simply needs to be read."-Brigit Strawbridge Howard, author of the Wainwright-shortlisted Dancing with Bees

Author Biography

Nicola Chester's clarion call to nature conservation was first recognised when she won the BBC Wildlife Magazine's Nature Writer of the Year Award in 2003. She has written a regular column for the RSPB members' magazine, Nature's Home, for over fifteen years. She is a Guardian Country Diarist and wrote the first book in the RSPB's Spotlight series on iconic British wildlife, Otters. Her writing features in several anthologies, including all four Seasons books, edited by Melissa Harrison, the new Red Sixty Seven book and Women on Nature, edited by Katharine Norbury.