A NEW trail has been opened in South Downs National Park.
The Writer’s Way has been opened to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen and the 100th anniversary of wartime poet Edward Thomas – who both lived in East Hampshire.
Austen’s house, museum and cottage gardens can be visited on the walk, during normal opening times.
Telling the story of East Hampshire’s rich literary past, the 13-mile Writers’ Way links the East Hampshire market town of Alton with the picturesque villages of Chawton and Selborne, through glorious countryside.
It uses a mixture of paths and rural lanes, age-old sunken tracks as well as paths over open farmland and woodland.
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 walk begins in the pretty village of Chawton, where Jane Austen lived. She loved the surrounding countryside, and often took walks with her family and friends. Passing through the market town of Alton walkers can see the places Jane knew so well – shops and friends’ houses, the bank (owned by her brother), coaching inn and more.
The trail is also associated with writer, journalist, MP and farmer William Cobbett who wrote Rural Rides in order to highlight the difficult living conditions faced by rural families in the 19th century. For his research he took long rides on horseback through the East Hampshire countryside and was inspired to visit Selborne after being given a copy of Gilbert White’s book.
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.
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 return can be made using the same route, by bus (walkers only), or steam train (walkers, and cyclists).
There is also an 11-mile circular option for walkers, returning to Chawton from Farringdon.
For more information on the route, you can visit hants.gov.uk/writersway.