Walking with the Hampshire Heritage Collection

It’s time to get our petticoats six inches deep in mud!

Selborne in Autumn

Selborne in Autumn

Petersfield, Selborne and Chawton the towns and villages covered by the Hampshire Heritage Collection are placed in a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world. Part of the South Downs National Park, this part of East Hampshire is perfect place to take a walk with plenty of routes for everyone. Whether you’re interested in treading in the footsteps of great writers whose surroundings inspired them, fascinated in the centuries of history around you, inspired by nature or just love to get a breath of fresh air East Hampshire is for you!

Our four brilliant attractions tell about the great opportunities for walkers, lovers of history and lovers of literature…


Jane Austen’s House Museum

“It seems to me to shew an abominable sort of conceited independence…”

Chawton Wood

Chawton Woods

Elizabeth Bennet’s ‘scampering about the country’ is one of the most memorable images in Pride and Prejudice and gives us a glance at the author who loved walking. In a letter to her sister Cassandra in 1800 she writes ‘It is too dirty for even desperate Walkers such as Martha and I to get out of doors’ but other letters talk of regular walks to Alton and when she visited other parts of the country.

It is possible today to follow the Jane Austen Trail from Alton to though the roads have changed significantly since Jane’s time. The Jane Austen Literary Walk covers a more rural route that Jane would have known and followed. Both can be downloaded from the Jane Austen House Museum website

Petersfield Museum

Walking tour of Petersfield

Walking tour

Petersfield Museum runs an extensive programme of walks throughout the year that offer the opportunity to learn more about the history of the local area and the museum’s collections. All walks are led by an expert guide, are open to the public and last approx. 90 mins. They are designed to bring the history of Petersfield (and the surrounding villages) to life. Our most popular topics are the Archaeology of Petersfield Heath, the First World War in Petersfield and the history of St Peter’s Church.  There will be new talks in 2016 such as a walk about Flora Twort which will discuss her life and her work. Details can be downloaded here.

We also run walks for special interest groups such as the U3A and WI. These walks can be tailor made or adapted to suit the needs of the group.  For more information on our walks programme, please contact Amanda Harwood on 01730 260756.

Chawton House Library

Following on from a recent Chawton House Library blog post for the Hampshire Heritage Collection which featured The Mirror of the Graces; or, the English Lady’s Costume  first published in 1811, for our latest post we have again turned to this venerable title in search of advice for ladies seeking to take exercise.  The author of this work is unknown but clearly aware of rank and position as the title page boldly states that the work is by “A Lady of Distinction”!  Our authoress has much to say on the subject of walking for health and beauty, “The secret of preserving beauty lies in three things:- Temperance, Exercise, Cleanliness” she advises.  Readers imaging an Elizabeth Bennet figure striding confidentially across the countryside should take heed of the warnings laid before them by the authoress as she states that walking should be “gentle and daily exercise in the open air.”  By the way, for those who prefer it, taking to one’s carriage is also an acceptable way to take the air because “Country air in the fields, or in gardens, when breathed at proper hours, is the finest bracer of the nerves and the surest brightener of the complexion.”  According to Mr Darcy it also brightens the eyes too!  So far so good, but should any of our Lady of Distinction’s readers assume that they can happily set forth at any time and in any weather conditions, be warned that “…. These hours [of exercise] are neither under the midday sun in summer, when its beams scorch the skin and set the blood in a boil; nor beneath the dews of evening, when the imperceptible damps, saturating the thinly-clad limbs, sends the wanderer home infected with the disease that is to lay her, ere a returning spring, in the silent tomb!”  Instead we are told that “The morning, about two or three hours after sun-rise is the most salubrious time for a vigorous walk.”  Having taken note of all the warnings a lady would also be required to be suitably dressed for her excursions into the dangerous weather terrors of the countryside; a point not lost on Miss Bingley in noting the dirt on the hem of Elizabeth Bennet’s petticoat.

Gilbert White & The Oates Collections

Here in Selborne we are blessed with many beautiful walks, the most popular of which walkers far and wide come to ramble up is the Zigzag, a path which cuts up the majestic Selborne Hanger in a perfect zigzag, and affords magnificent views from the top. The Zigzag was cut in the 1760’s by Gilbert White and his brother John to give easier quicker access up the steep hill to the Selborne Common.

Gilbert White journey to Oxford

Gilbert White Walk

However the most courageous walk this year was completed by our chair of trustees Rosemary Irwin and fellow walkers who followed in the steps of Gilbert White from his home in Selborne to his college, Oriel in Oxford. The walk was completed in just over a week with some rest days, the walkers (on some days 90 strong!) followed the route that Gilbert would have known well, through north Hampshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire (although it’s unlikely Gilbert would have gone all that way on foot despite the fact he got coach sick!). The group were welcomed at Oriel with open arms and raised money towards the sustainability of the Museum for future generations. What’s even more impressive is that Rosemary et al. are planning on doing it again, but backwards! Over 3 weekends in April and May 2016 from Oriel College, Oxford back towards Selborne. Keep checking our  website for more details!

Walking trip

Walking trip to Oxford

If you belong to a group that loves walking why not consider visiting the Hampshire Heritage Collection in 2016?

Contact us today for more information. Click Here