Watership Down Discovery

In 2007, in late springtime, I was enjoying the views from the top of Old Winchester Hill. Walking down the steep slopes, I caused some rabbits to run for their holes. I remembered a picture book I was given for Christmas many years ago and wondered whether the rabbits’ hill of the tale would look like that.

When I went home, I did some searches on the internet and found out more…

And so I eventually realized that Watership Down is a real place and that the whole story took place in the beautiful settings of the south England countryside round Newbury; not too far from Southampton where I live.

This was a great discovery: intrigued by the rabbits’ journey, I started to explore the area and followed in the tracks of Hazel’s courageous band.

Several trips later, after walking for miles in the countryside of the downs, and taking many photos of wild rabbits, I thought they would constitute a fine way to pay my tribute to the novel.

Inspired by the book, some of the real rabbits from my photos have become, for me, the characters of the story – the characters I have painted, with the real landscape as a background.

I met Richard Adams and his wife Elizabeth in September 2007 and showed them a couple of the small paintings I had started with. Two paintings were not enough to express my feelings, so I decided to paint more and to use bigger canvases.

Richard and I kept in touch. I sent photographs of my paintings with my letters. In September 2008 we met again and I showed him another five paintings on large canvases.

It was decided on that day to organize an early exhibition of these first paintings in Whitchurch in November, in collaboration with the Whitchurch Arts Society (whitchurcharts.org.uk website).

It proved successful, with a great response from the public, and I felt encouraged to carry on with my work.

A second exhibition of the paintings took place at the B.I.C. (Bournemouth International Centre) in 2009, during the Christmas Gift Show. Richard Adams, guest of honour, signed copies of his books for the fans.

Richard was determined to see an illustrated edition of Watership Down on the 40th anniversary in 2012, once a complete collection of pictures had been created.

After an initial negative response in the UK, in 2011 his American publisher Simon & Schuster decided to go ahead and others followed...

Finally, in November 2014 the UK publisher Oneworld Publications has released an English version for the British public.

- Aldo Galli -

Watership Down Fans still leave their messages on the walls of the roadless arch by Efrafa!