Highly Commended – Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing, 2022. Winner of the Richard Jefferies Prize for Nature Writing, 2021.
‘It is impossible to write with integrity about nature without protesting and resisting and waving a desperate red flag. Isn’t it?’
Shortlisted, then Highly Commended for the James Cropper Wainwright Nature Writing Prize 2022, and winner of The Richard Jefferies Award, 2021; Stephen Moss’s, Melissa Harrison’s and Countryfile Magazine’s ‘Best Books of 2021’
‘An evocative and inspiring memoir’. Claire Fuller, author of Unsettled Ground and winner of Costa Novel Award 2021
‘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.
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 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 Chester came to write – as a means of protest. The story of how she discovered the 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, raising her children in the chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs, though the song of the nightingale and the red kites, fieldfares, skylarks, and lapwings that surround 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 Down tells how Nicola came to realize that it is she who can decide where she belongs and how, 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.’
On Gallows Down is perfect for fans of H is for Hawk, The Salt Path and Featherhood.
Links to buy, here:
Just some reviews here:
Dr Julia Bennet for The Sociological Review: https://thesociologicalreview.org/reviews/on-gallows-down-by-nicola-chester/
Paul Cheney, at Half Man, Half Book: http://halfmanhalfbook.co.uk/review/on-gallows-down-by-nicola-chester/