Hampshire walk - Chawton and Farringdon

Churchyard, All Saints, Farringdon

Churchyard, All Saints, Farringdon - Credit: Fiona Barltrop

A pair of circular walks from Chawton via Farringdon.

Jane Austen's House Museum, Chawton

Jane Austen's House Museum, Chawton - Credit: Fiona Barltrop

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Jane Austen's House Museum, which first opened to the public on 23 July 1949.

Situated in the picturesque village of Chawton, just outside Alton, the house, originally called Chawton Cottage, was home to Jane Austen for the last eight years of her life from 1809 until 1817. Here she lived with her mother and sister Cassandra, and worked on her six great novels.

Jane was born in 1775 in the Hampshire village of Steventon, south-west of Basingstoke, the daughter of a clergyman. The family moved to Bath in 1801, where Jane spent the next few years of her life. Following the death of her father in 1805, she and her mother and sister eventually settled in Chawton. Their large cottage belonged to Jane's brother Edward, who had taken the name of Knight and inherited the estate of Chawton from a wealthy relative, Thomas Knight. Chawton House, where Edward lived, was referred to as the Great House by Jane. She died too young at the age of 41 in 1817 after travelling to Winchester for treatment. Her grave is in Winchester Cathedral, the epitaph aptly referring to the "extraordinary endowments of her mind".

Both Jane Austen's House Museum and Chawton House are open to the public and until the end of the year there's an exhibition at the former about the making of the museum. Throughout December, Jane Austen's House will be decorated for the festive season and it's worth noting her birthday is on 16 December.

Following in the footsteps of Jane Austen, this gentle walk heads south past Chawton House, which Jane often visited, to the village of Farringdon where she had friends. Farringdon has another literary association: the renowned naturalist Gilbert White, who lived nearby at Selborne, was curate here in the 18th century. The largest and most striking building in the village is known as Massey's Folly. Built of red brick and terracotta tiles under the supervision of the eccentric Reverend Thomas Massey, rector here from 1857, it towers over the surrounding cottages. The village's popular Rose & Crown pub makes a good refreshment stop if wished. There are two options for the return leg, one slightly longer than the other, but both very pleasant.

the walk

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1. (SU709375) Turn left out of the car park and left again following the direction for St Nicholas Church and Chawton House. Soon turn left along the drive which leads to Elizabethan Chawton House and the church, where the graves of Jane Austen's mother and sister are to be found. Retrace your steps and continue along the road to its end, and along a permissive path parallel to the main road. Cross a stile into the field and bear left away from road, cutting diagonally across the field to Noar Copse. Continue along the footpath/track, descending to Upper Farringdon. Turn left at the junction and then bear round to the right towards the huge Victorian brick building Massey's Folly. In the past, it served as the local school and village hall, but has now been sold for development. Facing the house across the road, turn left into the churchyard passing the ancient yew trees. All Saints Church dates from the 12th century but the two yew trees are much older.

2. (SU712353) After looking round the church, leave the churchyard by its other entrance, turning left along the road and then right to reach the Rose & Crown (to skip the pub, stay on the lane). Turn left along the enclosed footpath beside the pub, then left and right along the field edge, left over a stile, then right to Stapley's Farm, turning left along the drive to the lane. Turn right to continue to a track and barrier gate, plus footpath fingerpost on the left.

3. (SU719358) Turn left along the track and before it bends left, go right at a fingerpost to follow the grassy footpath, soon crossing a stile into open pasture. Follow the brook (Caker Stream) on your left. The path crosses another stile by a gate and beyond that crosses a footbridge on the left to continue with the brook on the right. At a fence and fingerpost turn right to cross back over the stream and continue with it on your left to the B3006.

4. (SU725375) Turn briefly right then cross the road with care and follow the private road (public footpath) which leads to Truncheaunts Farm. At a junction turn left over a stile and footbridge and follow the footpath, initially along the field edge. The path becomes enclosed and leads past buildings, continuing along a track/access road. Go right through a gap and cross a drive to reach the B3006 again. Once again cross with care and continue along the concrete track footpath opposite, then right through a gate and along the field edge to another gate. Bear right across the field to a pair of stiles and maintain direction across the following fields towards Eastfield Farm. Cross a drive and continue to enter the woodland, soon exiting it by a kissing gate. Head across the field to a gate and carry on to the kissing gate in the wall, where an enclosed path leads to the road. Turn left back to the start.

shorter return route:

Marked light blue on the map. From point 2, to visit the pub follow the directions above, then turn right and right again, keeping ahead along the footpath where the road bends right. At the intersection turn left along the access road to the A32. Cross and continue along the no-through road opposite. Just before the bridge turn right down a path leading to the disused railway line. Follow the track north, ignoring turnings. Emerging from the trees continue across the field towards a clump of trees and thereafter bear right down to the A32. Re-cross the road and follow the path to Ferney Close, turning left at the road junction back to the start.


Start/finish: Free car park in Chawton SU709375. Alternatively, roadside parking

Map: OS Explorer OL33

Distance: 5? miles (9km) or 4½ miles (7.2km) for shorter option. Each option can be shortened by omitting the pub

Terrain: Field paths and tracks; country lanes; old railway trackbed (shorter option)

Time: Three hours; shorter option two hours

Refreshments: The Greyfriar 01420 83841; Cassandra's Cup tea room 01420 83144; and Chawton House Library tearoom 01420 541010 all in Chawton; Rose & Crown, Farringdon 01420 587001

Public transport: Trains from London Waterloo to Alton; Stagecoach bus 38 from Alton to Petersfield via Chawton, stagecoachbus.com

Further information: Jane Austen's House Museum 01420 83262; jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk; Chawton House 01420 541010; chawtonhouse.org

Accommodation: Watercress Lodges & Campsite, next to Ropley station on the Watercress line from Alton and a ten-minute drive from Chawton - an ideal base for exploring the local area 07803 728754; watercresslodges.co.uk