Hampshire walk in Jane Austen country
- Credit: Steve Davison
Head to the west of Basingstoke for a walk in Jane Austen country says Steve Davison
Our walk this month starts at the 800 year old St Nicholas’ Church in Steventon, which lies to the south-east of the village. It was at Steventon rectory that Jane Austen, who later became a renowned romantic novelist, was born on the 16th December 1775 - her father, George Austen, two of her brothers James and Henry, and her nephew William Knight were all Rectors of Steventon, and Jane was baptised in St Nicholas’ Church. Inside the church there are several memorials to members of the Austen family. Jane spent the first 25 years of her life in the village, before the family moved to Bath, and it was whilst living in the village that she wrote some of her famed novels, including Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey - although these weren’t published until some years later. The former rectory, where the family lived, has long since been demolished.
After leaving the church the walk heads along lanes to pass Nurshanger Farm before crossing fields to follow part of the Wayfarer’s Walk to Deane. This 70 mile long distance path meanders through the Hampshire countryside from high up in the North Hampshire Downs to the south coast, near Portsmouth. At Deane, the walk affords a fine view of Deane House (private) where Jane met her only true love, Tom LeFroy, and passes the Gothic-styled All Saints Church - Jane’s father was rector here before moving to Steventon.
From here, we head through Deane Park to arrive at Ashe, home to the Church of the Holy Trinity and St Andrew and the source of Hampshire’s renowned trout fishing river, the River Test. After leaving the church the walk passes Ashe House (private), once the home of Anne LeFroy, friend and advisor to Jane. It was Anne’s nephew, Tom, whom Jane met at Deane House.
From Ashe the route heads back across the B3400 and meanders through woods and fields back to Steventon.
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• Distance: 5.5 miles (9km)
• Time: 2.5 hours without stops
• Terrain: Some ups and downs, tracks and paths which can be muddy, no stiles, some gates, sections of country road
• Start/Finish: Steventon Church (SU550472) off the B3400 to the west of Basingstoke; limited parking beside the church
• Map: OS Explorer 144
• Refreshment: None on the walk; pubs at Oakley, North Waltham and Overton
1 (SU550472) - Stand facing St Nicholas’ Church and turn left down the tarmac drive to a T-junction. Turn right and at the sharp right-hand bend, beside Nurshanger Farm, go straight on along the track for a short way before turning left into the field and then turning right alongside the hedge. Continue through two fields and at the far left corner of the second field, go through a hedge gap into the next field and follow the left-hand boundary. At the field corner, turn left along the track under the railway - the walk now follows part of the Wayfarer’s Walk to Deane. Head gently uphill, ignore a cross path and keep ahead, following the track gently downhill for 900m to a lane, beside some houses.
2 (SU547497) - Turn right and with care cross straight over the B4200. Follow the minor road opposite for 250m and as it curves right, turn left through a gate and follow the tarmac drive towards the church - over to the right is Deane House. Just before the churchyard gate, go through a kissing gate on the left and follow the path through the parkland (church on the right). Leave through a kissing gate in the metal fence and go through the trees. Keep ahead through a small gate and follow the left-hand field edge down to the bottom left corner. Keep ahead through the trees to a road at Ashe - straight across leads to the Church of the Holy Trinity and St Andrew.
3 (SU534499) - Turn left, soon passing Ashe House (right), and re-cross the main road (B4200). Follow the road opposite towards South Lichfield for 100m. Turn left through a hedge gap and kissing gate, then follow the path through the field to meet with the right-hand hedge. Go through a kissing gate and continue in the same direction across the field corner and through another kissing gate. Continue through the next field to the trees on the far side and turn right uphill (trees on left), to the top left corner. Go through a small gate and bear left alongside the fence, then bear left along the track to enter a field. Continue alongside the left-hand edge and shortly after it curves right, bear left along a track through Kimber Copse.
4 (SU542487) - Ignore a path to the left, soon leave the trees and follow the enclosed path alongside the fence, later ignoring another path to the left. Pass two houses (left) and turn right through a small gate. Follow the left-hand field edge through two fields separated by a gate and shortly before the field corner turn left through a small gate. Follow the track under the railway and then alongside the right-hand hedge, later passing between houses to a lane in Steventon. Cross straight over, enter a field and follow the right-hand edge for 650m. At the far right corner, go through the gate, turn left to the tarmac drive and turn right for 100m back to the church.
• Hampshire walk around the New Forest National Park - Head to Ashurst for a peaceful walk in the New Forest National Park, taking in open common, woods and the Beaulieu River says Steve Davison
• Hampshire walk around East Worldham - This month head to East Worldham just to the east of Alton, following part of the Hangers Way and visiting Binswood says Steve Davison