Nestled in the rolling hills of Hampshire, Tiffany Francis explores the small village of Chawton, enriched with social and literary history, and abundant in postcard-perfect flora and fauna.
Why go there
Chawton is perhaps best celebrated for its most famous resident, the 18th
century writer Jane Austen. Having lived most of her adult life in Bath, she retreated to Chawton Cottage
with her mother and sister, living out the rest of her days in the blissful landscape of the surrounding countryside.
After a tour of the handsome, creaking house, visitors can take a leisurely walk to the beautiful, 13th
century St Nicholas church
, which Austen herself attended with her family. In the graveyard can be seen the tombstones of her beloved sister and mother.
A short distance from here lies Chawton House
, home at one time to Austen’s brother. This striking building still holds many regency treasures and antiques, and the library is also home to a large and renowned collection of women’s writing from 1600-1830.
Aside from the hidden secrets of the indoors, Chawton is also situated in the stunning landscape of the South Downs National Park, and visitors are free to ramble through the fields and woodlands nearby. The jolly trot of heavy horses can often be heard down the cobbled road, and the vivacious gardens of the residents are brimming with flowers and dainty birds.
Where to stay
The nearby market town of Alton holds many pubs, inns and B&Bs, and can be easily accessed by bus or on foot. One 17th
century guest house, Old Timbers
, can be found a mere mile away from the village, and ranges from £45 for a single room to £80 for a double.
Where to eat
A visit to Austen’s home is not complete without sumptuous scones, thick, raspberry jam and hot, fragrant tea from the cosy tearoom, Cassandra’s Cup
, located opposite the cottage. If this is a bit too ‘quaint’ for your liking, there is a sturdy English pub next door, complete with a ploughman’s!
Tell us a local secret
Rumour has it that Austen was a very secretive writer, unwilling to let her family see her at work. The door between the parlour and dining-room in Chawton Cottage was said to creak in such a way, that Austen used it as a signal to hide her papers before anyone entered the room!