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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
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.
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