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.
On Gallows Down is perfect for fans of H is for Hawk, The Salt Path and Featherhood.
‘It is impossible to write with integrity about nature without protesting and resisting and waving a desperate red flag.
PUBLISHED BY CHELSEA GREEN PUBLISHING
PUBLICATION DATE – 7TH OCTOBER 2021
This is a book that inspires you to appreciate the nature around us as the author does a wonderful job of combining her personal experiences over the years, amidst the backdrop of the ever changing world we find ourselves living in.
This is a memoir of Nicola Chester, who has found herself protesting over the years to protect the environment in various locations whilst bringing up her family, and doing what she can to pass on the knowledge and love of wildlife and nature to her children and those around her. I have nothing but admiration for this woman after reading about her life experiences, and how she writes so passionately about the natural world. Her enthusiasm is infectious and I share the same anticipation as her awaiting wildlife sightings whilst you’re out for a walk.
I knew very little about some of the areas she talks about, but she brings them to life with her writing style and I also found myself googling pictures of the area to get more of a feel for the areas that meant so much to her over the years, and those areas that she fought so passionately to save and protect.
With her husband, she moved around the country over the years due to various job changes and there’s always that connection to nature and the outside world that allowed her to cope with change – the nature around always seemed to give her hope and it was lovely to see her passing that interest on to her children as she had them exploring local areas with her.
There’s lots of fascinating information about the wildlife she sees and how the changes in areas has impacted on the animals and their habitats, as well as the history of places she lived in, that it made for an absorbing read, and one that has made me more determined to do what I can for local areas and wildlife so that more can be protected and saved for future generations.
Thank you to the publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing, for the advanced reader copy in return for a fair and honest review.