I went looking for a remembered quote from Watership Down for one of my posts and quickly enough became immersed in rereading it. I never used the quote (by Fiver, speaking of Silverweed) but it was time spent profitably anyway. Few books have ever gone to the heart for me as this one did and still does. Lord of the Rings, and in an entirely different way The Screwtape Letters.
We visited the place ten years ago. When planning our trip to London and Oxford, we discovered that Watership Down is a real place and resolved to go there. Adams does note that the place is real on the copyright page, but we had never noticed. We did not tramp over the entire area, but did walk off the road near Kingsclere and see the pylons. If I try again I will bring more detailed maps. You can have more info here , and pictures here. You can pick out Watership Down on Google Earth with some difficulty - the wiki marker is not quite where Adams puts it on the map - and Efrafa is quite easy. We stayed at Freefolk, near Efrafra, while we were there.
People claim to reread books for the beauty of their language, but I am sure that is not the case here. The continual identification of plants is still tedious to me, as I have no picture in my mind what groundsel or campion look like. It is the story I am after, and the chance to listen to old friends again. It is a puzzling thing how the plot could pull one along so when every coming event is already known.
I hope the book retains some popularity and survives yet one more generation. It is inspiring because so much of it is true. Societies that trade safety for freedom still end up like Cowslip's warren or like Efrafra. Risks must be taken, and the danger of loss is real. The honesty of knowing the real abilities of yourself and those around you is still the core foundation for camaraderie; you find yourself through hardship, not ease; sacrifice for others is noble; courage and generosity are rewarded only sometimes, but still should be the first instinct.
Beast-fable, Lewis claimed, allows the author to illustrate things about human nature that are otherwise unavailable. The characters are both children and adults, with no jobs to go to, but great freedom of action.