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.
Nicola Chester’s clarion call to nature conservation was first recognised when she won the BBC Wildlife Magazine’s Nature Writer of the Year Award in 2003. She has written a regular column for the RSPB members’ magazine, Nature’s Home, for over fifteen years. She is a Guardian Country Diarist and wrote the first book in the RSPB’s Spotlight series on iconic British wildlife, Otters. Her writing features in several anthologies, including all four Seasons books, edited by Melissa Harrison, the new Red Sixty Seven book and Women on Nature, edited by Katharine Norbury.
"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