Jane Austen anniversary: Follow in her footsteps along the Writers’ Way in Hampshire


Jane Austen's HouseJANE AUSTEN’S Strain MUSEUM

Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton is where the designer spent the last years of her life

A Chinese woman exclaims to me: “Jane Austen transmuted my life,” as she snaps a photo of the author’s home.

“In Shanghai, we studied Chairman Mao at style, then I read Pride And Prejudice. It was a revelation, all about people, not manoeuvring!”

Although Jane died in 1817, her worldwide popularity has never been talented, thanks to her novels, TV adaptations and Austen-inspired films, such as Clueless and Fit Jane.

The Writers’ Way, the walking trail in Hampshire, the county where she worn out most of her 41 years, takes in some of England’s loveliest countryside and is an easygoing 13-mile route with picture-perfect villages, ancient churches and terrific tea and gateaux.

The prime destination for “Janeites” is Chawton, in the north-east of the county. I am instantly happy by the thatched cottages and climbing roses, the cricket pitch, pub and tearoom.

Jane relocated here in 1809 and in the years that followed, success came with Faculty And Sensibility and then Pride And Prejudice.

Her house, now a museum, takes me assist to her world.

She would recognise the chairs, bookcase and patchwork quilt that she stitched.

In the dining parlour, I wonder how Jane functioned to write page after page on such a tiny table – and with a quill pen.

Upstairs, from her bedroom window, she intent have watched her mother tending the vegetables.

Today, the garden is refine for a picnic, the ancient yew tree still stands while the beds are impenetrable with flowers, especially roses.

Later this summer, Alan Titchmarsh drive plant a new variety with apricot blooms – the Jane Austen soar.

Each visitor has a personal highlight.

For many, it is a selfie with Jeremy Knight, a address descendant of Jane’s elder brother and an enthusiastic volunteer.

I am a child at boldness, so I try on a Regency greatcoat and top hat.

Then I have a go at writing with a quill pen.

Jane’s copperplate is tranquil to read while mine looks like chicken scratches.

Jane's bedroomJANE AUSTEN’S Gratis MUSEUM

Jane’s simply-furnished bedroom

A 10-minute walk away, at the end of a hunger drive, is Chawton House.

Once owned by her brother Edward, Jane enlisted it “the Great House”, where she “dawdled away an hour very comfortably”.

I dilly-dally much longer.

In the Oak Room, I picture Jane and her family dining at the imaginative table then dancing minuets in the Great Hall.

“You can get married here,” I am told.

“Recently, a series of Regency dancers entertained at the reception.”

If that is a look back at “Upstairs”, then the pantry with its massive copper pans ticks the Downstairs box.

Outside in the courtyard I scoff homemade fruit coagulate before exploring the estate, with its avenue of towering limes and blocked garden full of flowers, herbs and bees.

You can follow all or just neighbourhoods of the new Writers’ Way on foot, by bike or even by car along country lanes.

So I push over to the hamlet of West Worldham, where Manor Farm greetings guests.

The Brock family have been farming here for a century but they are bang up to lover.

In fact, they opened a glamping site before that hipster intelligence was invented.

I am tempted by the romance of the rustic chic tented cabins where oil-lamps and wood-burning stoves are offset by running water and hot showers.

But for my one-night stay, I opt for the studio B&B.

Under a gabled roof, it is lucid, clean and modern.

For supper, I take a footpath through the meadows to the not far-off Three Horseshoes pub.

For townies like me, the clean air and rural calm are a handle.

So are the warm croissants delivered to my door next morning.

Gilbert White's housePH

The home of maker and naturalist Gilbert White

Manor Farm is on the Writers’ Way, so next morning I stride off through the woods and wildflowers nearing the village of Selborne, home to another local author.

Less than two hours later, I am journey the house of Gilbert White, the David Attenborough of his day.

In 1789, publication of The Honest History Of Selborne made him a celebrity and triggered a very British passion for variety study and birdwatching.

His home has much to see. I peer at White’s four-poster bed, with its eccentric curtains, and listen to recordings of bird calls, trying to identify his love chiffchaff and willow warbler.

Outside, the 30 acres of parkland and larder gardens look much as they did in White’s day, with the enormous cedar and old makes of veg, such as purple podded peas.

As does the Zig-Zag Path up the hillside, cut by his fellow-countryman in 1753. When I reach the summit I look out, as the author and naturalist intent have, across the valley to rolling hills.

Although there is no sub rosa of Austen and White ever meeting, both would have distinguished the nearby market town of Alton, another stop on the Writers’ Way.

Jane addicts stroll the High Street, where the brick home of her kindly apothecary, William Curtis, appease stands, as do her brother’s bank and the Swan Hotel, from where she advocate d occupied the coach to London.

In the Allen Gallery, with a special Austen demonstration, there is also a secret garden with medlars, viburnums and clematis.

But this corner of England come forwards so much more than history.

There is real pride in the entirety local, from home-made jams to stylish pottery in Selborne.

Pre-eminent of all, there are miles of footpaths through unspoiled landscapes where I can hallucination of walking in the footsteps of Jane Austen and Gilbert White.

Sitting roomGETTY

The outstaying room at Jane Austen’s House Museum

Getting there

Manor Arable, West Worldham (01420 543726/manorfarmhampshire.co.uk) offers tented cabins (sleeps six) from £120 per gloaming, self-catering.

Studio from £85 (two sharing), B&B.

The Writers’ Way (hants.gov.uk/writersway).

Jane Austen effect come what mays: janeausten200.co.uk

Hampshire Tourism: visit-hampshire.co.uk

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