A New Journey
Tue 23rd Aug 2011 at 10:02:47
Box canvas 40x60” (100x150cm)

The expedition to Efrafa is going to be dangerous. But even before attempting Hazel’s plan, a two day march on the open down is expected. Under Silver guidance, a new journey towards Efrafa begins.
As the band of rabbits approach Caesar’s Belt, Silver stops in a patch of thorn, joined by Hazel and Fiver: in front of them, the long stretch of wood that Holly didn’t like…
With the exception of Buckthorn and the addition of Bluebell, the rabbits who set off towards Efrafa are the same who left Sandleford warren 5 weeks before. This gives also an opportunity to paint some of the characters who have not yet appeared in other paintings. In the foreground, Speedwell is beside Blackberry and Acorn is beside Dandelion (being Blackberry and Dandelion the two rabbits in the front), while Hawkbit is eating some grass while looking toward Silver, Hazel and Fiver staring at the Belt.
That leaves Bluebell with Pipkin in the middle ground.
The passages from the book are one of the most beautiful descriptions of the Downs in the story.

Part 3 Efrafa
From Chapter 30: A New Journey

By kind permission of Richard Adams

June was moving towards July and the high summer. Hedgerows and verges were at their rankest and thickest. The rabbits sheltered in dim-green, sun-flecked caves of grass, flowering marjoram and cow-parsley; peered round spotted hairy-stemmed clumps of viper’s bugloss, blooming red and blue above their heads; pushed between towering stalks of yellow mullein. Sometimes the scuttled along open turf, coloured like a tapestry meadow with self-heal, centaury and tormentil. Because of their anxiety about elil and because they were nose-to-ground, and unable to see far ahead, the way seemed long.
Had their journey been made in years gone by, they would have found the downs far more open, without standing crops, grazed close by sheep and they could hardly have hoped to go far unobserved by enemies. But the sheep were long gone and the tractors had ploughed great expanses for wheat and barley. The smell of the green, standing corn was around them all day. The mice were numerous and so were the kestrels. The kestrels were disturbing, but Hazel had been right when he guessed that a healthy, full-grown rabbit was too large a quarry for them. At all events, no one was attacked from above.
Some time before ni-Frith, in the heat of the day, Silver paused in a little patch of thorn. There was no breeze and the air was full of the sweet, chrysanthemum-like smell of the flowering compositae of the dry uplands – corn-chamomile, yarrow and tansy. As Hazel and Fiver came up and squatted beside him, he looked out across the open ground ahead.
“There, Hazel-rah, “he said” that’s the wood that Holly didn’t like.
Two or three hundred yards away and directly across their line, a belt of trees ran straight across the down, stretching in each direction as far as they could see.
They had come to the line of the Portway - only intermittently a road - which runs from north of Andover, through St Mary Bourne with its bells and streams and watercress beds, through Bradley Wood, on across the downs and so to Tadley and at last to Silchester – the Roman’s Calleva Atrebatum. Where it crosses the downs, the line is marked by Caesar’s Belt, a strip of woodland as straight as the road, narrow indeed but more than three miles long. In this hot noon-day the trees of the Belt were looped and netted with darkest shadow. The sun lay outside, the shadows inside the trees. All was still, save for the grasshoppers and the falling finch-song of the yellow-hammer on the thorn. Hazel looked steadily for a long time, listening with raised ears and wrinkling his nose in the unmoving air.
“I can’t see anything wrong with it, “he said at last.” Can you, Fiver?”
“No,” replied Fiver. “Holly thought it was a strange kind of wood and so it is, but there don’t seem to be any men there. All the same, someone ought to go and make sure, I suppose. Shall I?”
The third group had come up while Hazel had been gazing at the Belt, and now all the rabbits were either nibbling quietly or resting, with ears laid flat, in the light green sun-and-shade of the thorn thicket.
“Is Bigwig there?” asked Hazel.
Throughout the morning Bigwig had seemed unlike himself – silent and preoccupied, with little attention for what was going on around him…
…Now, he came out of a nearby clump of mugwort and flowering thistle and joined Hazel under the thorn…

- Aldo Galli -