Hampshire has launched a new trail called The Writers’ Way, in what has been dubbed “The Year of the Literary Heroes” thanks (in part) to the 200th anniversary of the death of one of the county’s best-loved daughters, Jane Austen.
Scheduled to be available from beginning of March, The Writers’ Way is a 13-mile trail linking the East Hampshire market town of Alton to surrounding villages through some of the county’s glorious countryside. It uses a mixture of paths and rural lanes and, in places, on age-old sunken tracks as well as on paths over open farmland and woodland.
Several famous authors were closely connected to the countryside here, giving rise to the name of the new trail.
The novelist Jane Austen lived at Chawton and was very familiar with the surrounding countryside, taking regular walks with her family and friends. Austen’s house, museum and cottage gardens can be visited on the walk, during normal opening times.
Pioneering 18th century ecologist and writer Gilbert White lived in Selborne and was curate of nearby Farringdon. His detailed wildlife observations and fascination with nature – conveyed in his hugely influential book, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne – transformed the way we think about the natural world today.
William Cobbett was born in nearby Farnham to a farming family. Self-educated, he campaigned for better living conditions for rural families and as research he undertook long rides on horseback through the countryside. He describes much of the area in his book Rural Rides and was inspired to visit Selborne after being given a copy of Gilbert White’s book.
As well as encouraging a healthy lifestyle, it is hoped that the route will encourage extra visits to Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, the Curtis Museum in Alton, and Gilbert White’s House in Selborne. For a day out with a difference, walkers and cyclists can return to their start point in this linear walk by using the Watercress Line Steam Railway, as Alton and Medstead stations lie near either end of the route.
The route is open to walkers and their dogs, as well as cyclists. Parts of the route, however, can be muddy, so are most suited to those with walking boots, or mountain bikes. Horse riders are welcome, but are advised against riding through the busy urban area of Alton. The route is 13-miles in total. The return can be made using the same route, by bus (walkers only), or steam train (walkers, and cyclists). There is also an 11-miles circular option for walkers, returning to Chawton from Farringdon.
The route was developed and funded by Hampshire County Council, East Hampshire District Council and the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund, who have worked in partnership to identify the route and to improve many of the paths.
A leaflet, containing full information on the route, as well as maps and ideas of what to see and do can be downloaded free of charge from http://www.hants.gov.uk/writersway.
For further information about Hampshire, visit http://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk.