Taking in social history and the author’s profound impulse to protect the rural landscape, this brilliant blend of memoir and nature writing weaves a stirring story of resistance and hope.
Passionate and poetically compelling, Nicola Chester’s On Gallows Down is a rich and rewarding must-read for nature-lovers, and for readers who adored H is for Hawk.
Charting a life lived in - and through - rural landscapes, Chester writes with a painterly eye. Her descriptions of nature and wildlife are staggeringly evocative - sensory, but never overblown or sentimental. Rather, her style has an elegant, measured beauty as she tells a personal story of protest and resistance, of a profound connection to the earth and nature, to offer a story of hope and connectedness in fractured times.
Chester shares her experiences during the days of the Greenham Common protests, her experiences as a new mother rearing her children in the ways and words of nature, and her journey to protesting environmental destruction, a journey she’s still consummately committed to. Birds, especially, play a vital and beautiful role in the book, as they do in the author’s life - their migratory cycles, their movement and influence, her fights to combat the destruction of habitats. Moving, stirring, stuff.
Part nature writing, part memoir, On Gallows Down is an essential, unforgettable read for fans of Helen Macdonald, Melissa Harrison and Isabella Tree.
Nicola Chester won the BBC Wildlife Magazine's Nature Writer of the Year Award - this is her first book.
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.
And it is also the story of how Nicola came to write and to protest - unearthing the seam of resistance that ran through Newbury's past, from the Civil Wars to the Swing Riots and the women of the Greenham Common Peace Camps and to the fight against the Newbury bypass. A resistance that continues today against the destruction of hedgerows, trees and wildlife through modern farm estate management.
On Gallows Down is perfect for fans of H is for Hawk, The Salt Path and Featherhood.
'It is impossible to write with integrity about nature without protesting and resisting and waving a desperate red flag.
|Publication date:||7th October 2021|
|Publisher:||Chelsea Green Publishing Co|
|Primary Genre||Biographies & Autobiographies|
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