On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging

As I’ve talked about not too long ago, I’ve had an extended standing well being drawback which has stopped me from doing a lot work, and even much less writing. Studying turned tough to the purpose the place I needed to cease after about half an hour. I’m nonetheless having a few of the signs, however I’m glad to say that issues have step by step been bettering (thanks Amitryptyline) and I felt effectively sufficient to learn a ebook from cowl to cowl. It has taken me some time however I used to be glad to have completed it.

The ebook is On Gallows Down by Nicola Chester, printed final October by Chelsea Inexperienced publishing. The subtitle has modified because the proof copy, to “Place, protest and belonging”. It’s a deeply private ebook, a nature memoir, recounting Nicola’s personal historical past and relationship with the character round her.

Nicola’s patch is comparatively small; West Berkshire, together with Newbury and Greenham Frequent, then Inkpen and the eponymous Gallows Down. She recounts a deeply rural life, of tied cottages on giant estates, horse-riding and nature-watching. However after all the locations her private story travels by means of are resonant with different bigger occasions. Greenham Frequent – the place the cruise missiles had been based mostly through the latter years of the chilly struggle – and the well-known (or notorious relying in your viewpoint) Greenham Womens’ Peace Camps. The close by city of Newbury – a reasonably market city, but additionally the place of well-known battles – two within the English Civil Battle, and extra not too long ago the battle over the Newbury Bypass. Nicola recounts some amusing, and uncomfortable, experiences as a young person curious and never slightly frightened by the armed troops defending the bottom and its missiles – and later took half in that marketing campaign to withstand the bulldozers and tree-choppers within the late 90s.

Her story continues to marriage and kids, in addition to her rising love of nature and her evident expertise for writing about nature. She begins writing an everyday column for RSPB journal, after which writes a additionally writes a ebook for them – although after all this isn’t sufficient to dwell on and he or she turns into a faculty librarian. The latter a part of the ebook explores her courageous makes an attempt to work with the property gamekeeper, to enhance the lot of the very wealthy and numerous wildlife the property helps, however lastly her desperation when she realises she has been misled, maybe betrayed.

The ebook is suffused together with her profound love of nature and place. There may be loads of actually fascinating native historical past too and he or she typically returns to the work of the peasant poet John Clare, as a touchstone. I believe Nicola identifies very a lot with Clare’s expertise, watching the character and the locations he beloved being destroyed by Enclosure, whereas Nicola has watched an analogous factor occur in her life-time, the expulsion of nature – and folks – from the fashionable industrial countryside.

I discovered myself reflecting on comparable experiences in my very own life, and there was a selected second after I realised it was fairly doable that I had been standing subsequent to Nicola, 25 years in the past, when she was flattened by a galloping Police horse through the Newbury Bypass protests. I nonetheless haven’t discovered the photograph I took, however I’ll try to discover it.

Nicola has written a outstanding ebook, very private but additionally addressing all of the bigger themes of rural life in late twentieth and early twenty first century England. Land possession: as Man Shrubsole has famous, half of West Berkshire is owned by simply 30 households. The largely hidden however massively influential function of the sector sports activities business, on each our human expertise of the countryside; and the wildlife that survives there. Poverty and the very poor high quality of housing in rural England. The connection between farm tenants and the estates on which they dwell. Citing kids in rural England and the challenges of getting them to high school many miles away, but additionally the incredible alternatives they should develop up inside a panorama the place nature can nonetheless flourish (in locations). It could come as a shock to some that West Berkshire can nonetheless be so deeply rural.

If I had one suggestion it will be that the textual content would profit from some pictures or drawings of the locations Nicola writes about, along with her hand-drawn map.

About Miles King

UK conservation skilled, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my very own and never my employers. I do not write on behalf of anyone else.

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