A. This valley contains land springs which provide one of the sources of the River Wey. Jane Austen wrote of it as “a fine running stream” and “… it is nothing but what beautifies us and does to talk of”.
B. Edward, Jane Austen’s third brother, took the name of Knight on inheriting the estate at Chawton. This included the ‘Great House’, as it was known. Jane often visited the house, particularly when Edward and his family were in residence.
C. Gilbert White, the 18th Century parson naturalist, lived at The Wakes (pictured below) in Selborne. Jane refers to a special occasion of ‘Gaieties’ on Selborne Common in which her own friends and Gilbert’s nephew took part.
D. White was curate of Farringdon from 1761 to 1784. However, it is the Revd. John Benn (who held the living of All Saints from 1797 to 1857) who claims our interest here, for his family were particular friends of the Austens and there was much visiting between the two villages. “Harriet Benn” wrote Jane Austen, “ sleeps at the Great House to-night and spends to-morrow with us; and the plan is that we should all walk with her to drink tea at Faringdon”.
E. As you approach Jane Austen’s house you pass thatched cottages on your left. Here by the roadside too was once a considerable pond, which in “sad weather” induced Jane to write rather dismally in March 1816: “Our Pond is brimful and our roads are dirty and our walls are damp, and we sit wishing every bad day may be the last”. However, the days themselves were not dull. She ends the letter: ”We have had a great deal of fun lately with Post chaises (horse-drawn carriage) stopping at the door; three times within a few days, we had a couple of agreeable Visitors turn in unexpectedly.”
Jane Austen’s letters
This walk is one of six literary walks produced by East Hampshire District Council.
Start from the centre of Chawton in the small car park beside the Cassandra’s Cup. On leaving the car park turn left and follow the old road towards Chawton Church on your left (see A on map). On the higher ground behind the Church of St Nicholas the Elizabethan Chawton House can be seen (B on map). In the churchyard the graves of Jane Austen’s mother and sister, Cassandra, can be found round the back of the church. The building is Victorian for the church was rebuilt in 1871 after a disastrous fire.
Continue along the road to its end and turn left, cross a stile and follow a grassy path parallel to the A32 – a far cry from the days when this was the Gosport turnpike road in Jane Austen’s time. Soon, a stile on your left takes you away from the road, as you cut diagonally across a field and through Noar Copse, leading to higher ground beyond. Keep straight on to Berryhill Plantation.
Continue along the track bordered by tall Wellington trees which give way to yew trees as you descend into Upper Farringdon. Turn left as you reach houses and the playground. Go through the farm yard with Manor Farm house on your left. Turn right through the lychgate to the church of All Saints (D on the map). From the church porch walk across the churchyard into the lane. Turn left and after a short distance turn right, you will soon reach the Rose and Crown Inn.
Turn right and continue straight on between attractive cottages on either side, turn into Church Road and take the footpath by the telephone box at the entrance to Parsonage Close. On passing the playground, again turn left along track to the A32. Cross this road with care and follow the road opposite for a short distance. A footpath leads off to the right just before the bridge. Follow this path which takes you down along the disused Meon Valley railway line which ran between Alton and Fareham.
Continue along the track to the end of the railway track at the end follow field edge towards a clump of trees. Cross over the stile and through the trees to the stile and follow the hedgerow, keeping it to your right down the steps before crossing the A32 with care.
On reaching the other side of the A32 continue up another flight of steps and turn left over the stile, keeping the belt of trees on your right to the kissing gate. Continue through the kissing gate and down Ferney Close. Turn left at the end and retrace your steps back to the village.