"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 powerful, personal story shaped by a landscape; one that ripples and undulates with protest, change, hope – and the search for home.
From the girl catching the eye of the “peace women” of Greenham Common to the young woman protesting the loss of ancient and beloved trees, and as a mother raising a family in a farm cottage in the shadow of grand, country estates, this is the story of how Nicola Chester came to write – as a means of protest. The story of how she discovered the rich seam of resistance that runs through her village of Newbury and its people – from the English Civil War to the Swing Riots and the battle against the Newbury Bypass. And the story of the hope she finds in the rewilding of Greenham Common after the military left, the stories told by the landscapes of Watership Down, the gallows perched high on Inkpen Beacon and Highclere Castle (the setting of Downtown Abbey).
Nature is indelibly linked to belonging for Nicola. She charts her story, raising her children in the chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs, though the song of the nightingale and the red kites, fieldfares, skylarks, and lapwings that surround her; the badger cubs she watches at night; the velvety mole she discovers in her garden, and the cuckoo, whose return she awaits. On Gallows Down tells how Nicola came to realize that it is she who can decide where she belongs and how, for home is a place in nature and imagination, which must be protected through words and actions."