Richard Adams’ 1972 novel Watership Down, an anthropomorphic adventure starring rabbits, is set on the non-fictional Watership Down between Newbury and Basingstoke. If you haven’t read the book or seen the cartoon adaptation, the gigantic views from the down are still ample reward for the legwork.
One mile south of Kingsclere on the B3051, park in the hilltop lay-by, or in the car park opposite. On foot, head west up the bridleway signposted “Wayfarer’s Walk” to the crest of Watership Down.
Expansive vistas over Berkshire and Hampshire’s rolling farmland unfold on both sides. To the north is the fictional rabbits’ path of exodus from the doomed Sandleford warren and the road to Nuthanger Farm, where much of the book’s action takes place. Five miles to the south is Efrafa, evil General Woundwort’s warren.
The inspiration for Adams’ fictional utopian warren, the Honeycomb, is found just left of the path about a mile along. Look for a copse of beech trees, initially screened by a high brambly hedge. There’s no obvious trace of rabbits now, but this is exactly where Adams had in mind when he described Dandelion telling stories and Bigwig fighting Woundwort.
You could turn back here to make it an hour’s walk, but it’s worth following the blue-arrow signs another 1.5 miles to the Iron Age hillfort at Ladle Hill. You pass some thin woods, home to many rabbits, cross a road, then enter open fields, ending at the hillfort’s prime promontory location which looks across a valley to a twin hillfort on Beacon Hill, and, northwards on a clear day across all of Berkshire to the Ridgeway. Now head back, enjoying views from the other direction.
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Rabbits, rolling views and hillforts
Car park on B3051 between Kingsclere and Overton, Hampshire
Length of walk
The Star Inn, Kingsclere