From Newbury Bypass to Highclere Castle estate, nature writer's book is political and personal
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.
On Gallow's Down: Place, Protest & Belonging by Nicola Chester will be published on October 7. Newbury Weekly News Nature Notes writer Nicola, who lives in Inkpen, is a pioneer of the new era of nature writing and the RSPB's longest running female columnist. She features in several anthologies and is also a Country Diarist for The Guardian. When she is not writing she is inspiring children to read as the librarian at John O'Gaunt secondary school in Hungerford. Those that follow her writing (seek her out on Twitter @NicolaWriting) have been impatiently waiting for her book for years.
This is a 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 also 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 he.
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 will be talking about her book to Women's Prize for Fiction shortlisted novelist Claire Fuller (whose latest novel Unsettled Ground is also set locally), followed by questions from the audience and a book signing at Hungerford Town Hall on October 9 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £8 and include a glass of wine. Contact Hungerford Bookshop (01488 683480) for details and pre-orders.
You can read an interview with Nicola here.