Monday, January 16, 2012

Watership Down, Hampshire

I went to England a few months back to accomplish some "bucket list" things. And yes, I know I'm old if I reference a bucket list.

There were 2 places in England I specifically wanted to see. One of these was Watership Down, which is an actual place and not just a book (which I had previously thought). The book (of the same name) is a epic journey type story but told through anthropormophized rabbits. It can be read as a children's book or as an adult book (kind of like Harry Potter). The author, Richard Adams, lived in the area and used to make up these stories to tell his children and eventually started writing them down. There is also a movie version of the book.

It lies in Hampshire which is about an hour or hour and a half drive from London (I hit a detour though so maybe it's shorter). I also had the disadvantage of learning how to drive on the opposite side of the road (I had done this once before in 2003 but it never really gets any easier).

There is limited accomodation in the nearest village of Kingsclere which doesn't really surprise me because I learned that the British don't really think the book is that big of a deal and are a little surprised that people come from so far away to look at a hill. (I know I'm not the only one..I did Internet research). In fact, no one I asked (who didn't live there) knew where Kingsclere even was or had even heard of it. Some people I talked to in the village had never even been to the hill even though they were life long residents.

The hill (or down as the English call it) is however, a popular place for walkers and cyclists (and apparently thieves since there were signs posted everywhere not to leave valuables in your car....sigh....a sad juxtaposition of rural tranquility and urban reality).

I stayed at the George and Horn which I thought was great. It's a 16th century inn with a pub downstairs. Granted it's not 4 stars but I don't have a 4 star budget. There is a parking lot in back and they serve food which was convenient. I got to meet some of the locals and they took me to my first rugby match. Granted, it was a local game of 15 year-olds but it was interesting to see what people do in a rural village in Britain.

It is true...the pub is the center of life in England. It was Saturday night and the whole village was out and they all know each other. English people always say that they aren't like Americans in that they go to the pub to socialize, not to get wasted (like Americans). All I can say, is bullshit.

The pubs do close early but the majoroty of those people that night were out to get off their heads (and nearly all suceeded).

We checked out the other pub in town, called The Swan. I had read about this pub/inn and it had gotten good reviews but these must have been from people in their 90's. It was Saturday night and there was no music on and people were reading newspapers. It was near dead silence in there. Trust me, I'm not into clubs or crazy bars but this was ridiculous. If you want to be quiet and read the paper, stay at home for chrissakes. I think if you had even tried starting a conversation with one of your friends in there, all the other patrons (who really were about 90..except for a lone group of teenagers...umm super weird) would have given you the serious stink eye.

The next day I went up to see the hill. I got good directions but it's still tricky to find. You have to go through the village of Ecchinswell and I use the term village loosely since it consists of 1 pub and a bunch of houses. Although I was told every year they re-enact witch dunkings in the river behind the pub. Oh those crazy English.

Unless you're a fan of the book, the hill is really no big deal. A nice place for a walk (which I did) but nothing to write home about. Although I did see Andrew Lloyd Webber's house (yes, that Andrew Lloyd Webber, he of Cat's fame) and apparently he's a real least that's what I was told. Personally, not being a fan of musicals, I could care less. Unless maybe to call him a douche for writing so many of the damned things.

There are tons of rabbits running around on the hill (and plenty of rabbit poo so tred carefully) although there weren't any signs marking it was Watership Down, so who knows? I might have been staring at just some dumb old hill.

There is apparently a walking path but it's about 10 miles so I skipped it. On the path you can see other things in the book, like Nuthanger Farm. I'm just not that ambitious.

So that's at leat 1 thing crossed off my bucket list. (Did that term even exist before that Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman movie exist or did they make it up?)

1 comment:

  1. Catching up on your travels, Kristin. Just read about the dunkings...crazy :) Hope you are well these days.