by RICHARD ADAMS | Literature & Fiction | This book has not been rated.
ISBN: 9789600450019 Global Overview for this book
Registered by aigliz of Larissa / Λάρισα, Larisa Greece on 10/11/2019
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Journal Entry 1 by aigliz from Larissa / Λάρισα, Larisa Greece on Friday, October 11, 2019
In the introduction to his book, Richard Adams helpfully gives the Ordnance Survey map reference – sheet 174. Once located on paper, long-remembered names jump from the map: Nuthanger Farm, Ashley Warren and Honeycomb are all there. It was the multitude of rabbits found on this little square of England that inspired Adams to write Watership Down.

The book, and the 1978 film that followed, famously terrified a generation. Instead of fluffy bunnies living in a rural idyll, Adams’s rabbits were both calculated killers and senselessly slaughtered. It was red in tooth and claw, and in the case of the film, shown in glorious and brutal Technicolor.

But with a new BBC/Netflix adaptation apparently taking a gentler tone, what is the reality for the UK’s rabbit population?

Watership Down should be about death and destruction, not fluffy rabbits
Stephanie Merritt
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For Dr Diana Bell, a rabbit disease expert at the University of East Anglia, it’s pretty dire. “Rabbits may be at an all time low” she says. “When did you last see a roadkill rabbit? You don’t anymore – they simply aren’t around like they used to be”

The figures bear her out. Bell points to a report by the British Trust for Ornithology, which estimated that the population had declined by 60% between 1995 and 2016.

Richard Adams walking on Watership Down.
Richard Adams walking on Watership Down. Photograph: Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock
On Watership Down itself, rabbits are certainly hard to come by. The Warren, a deep combe set into the Down, is pockmarked with burrows, but an hour’s watching reveals just four rabbits.

Although there are fewer rabbits, the landscape does bear marks of the book. The huge beech tree that sheltered the Watership Down warren was a landmark for many years. “People used to really care about that tree,” says local resident Bryan. “One lady even made her husband drive three hours from Cheshire in the great storm of 1987 just to check it was all right”.

The tree finally blew down in 2004, and a newly planted sapling stands in its place – ironically, fenced to protect it from rabbit damage. The names of two of Adams’s rabbit creations, Fiver and Hazel, are scratched into the fencing, the most bucolic of graffiti.

Locals out on the hill have started to notice the lack of rabbits too.

'True meaning' of Watership Down revealed ahead of TV revival
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“Numbers have definitely gone down over the 18 years I’ve been here,” Bryan says, “I think some of that is environmental, but we still see a fair few rabbits with myxie which seems to come and go”

Myxomatosis, or myxie, is a disease every bit as horrific as anything in Adams’s book, and it almost wiped out the UK’s rabbit population in the 1950s. The population bounced back, but new strains still affect the rabbits from time to time.

For Bell, a newer, silent killer is even more worrying. “Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) first arrived here from China in the early 90s” she says, “and our rabbits were just starting to recover when a new strain appeared in 2010, RHDV2, which has been causing havoc ever since.”

The big problem is that while myxomatosis has very obvious symptoms, RHDV2 leaves very little trace.

“Rabbits that die from RHDV2 tend to look absolutely fine, so no one reports them” explains Bell, “and one key final stage of the disease is lethargy – so many simply crawl into their burrows and die underground”.

Is Watership Down really 'just a story about rabbits'?
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As rabbits are subterranean and mostly nocturnal, it is difficult to get a good estimate of their numbers. However, when myxomatosis ravaged the population in the 1950s, buzzards, foxes and stoats all declined along with their main food source, so it is clear a decline in rabbit numbers has effects right up the food chain.

The new Waterhip Down comes at a time when the rabbit population is thought to be at an all-time low.
The new Waterhip Down comes at a time when the rabbit population is thought to be at an all-time low. Photograph: screengrab/Watership Down
But the same is also true down the food chain, and the distinctive chalk grassland of Watership Down relies on the rabbits to keep it maintained.

“There’s a project in the Brecks [in East Anglia] where rabbits are being actively re-introduced,” explains Bell, “because so many rare and unique species rely on them as ecosystem engineers”.

Without the rabbits keeping the grasses down, the landscape so memorably brought to life by Adams might cease to exist too.

Journal Entry 2 by aigliz at Larissa / Λάρισα, Larisa Greece on Friday, October 11, 2019

Ενα μαγευτικό μυθιστόρημα. Μια διαρκής περιπέτεια. Οι ήρωες ξεκινούν ένα ταξίδι που θα αλλάξει τη ζωή τους για πάντα. Ανακαλύπτουν πως μπορούν να επιβιώσουν σε κόσμους άγνωστους και διαφορετικούς, ελέγχοντας το Φόβο, αποκτώντας αυτογνωσία αλλά και δύναμη μέσα από την επιτυχία και την αποτυχία. Μπορούν και επιβιώνουν γιατί έχουν ιστορία που δεν ξεχνούν ποτέ. Οι μύθοι και οι θρύλοι του τόπου τους ακολουθούν. Μια σπουδαία ιστορία, γεμάτη συμβολισμούς και καυστικό χιούμορ. Ένα τραγούδι για την Περιπλάνηση, το Όραμα, την Ηθική, την Ατομική Ελευθερία, αλλά και την από κοινού δράση. Ο καθένας μπορεί να πετύχει τα πάντα όταν έχει Όραμα. Μια καταπληκτική ιστορία, που μπορεί να διαβαστεί και να ξαναδιαβαστεί από διαφορετική κάθε φορά οπτική γωνία.

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