Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside at Hampshire County Council, Councillor Andrew Gibson, said: “This is the first of many County Council celebrations to mark the 200-year anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. The world-renowned author had strong Hampshire roots and it will be a very special experience for many to now follow in her footsteps. The new trail takes you from Jane Austen’s former home in Chawton, and through the surrounding countryside that she herself would have enjoyed at a time when she wrote many of her popular novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma.
“The Writers’ Way not only helps people access Hampshire’s countryside to enjoy the scenery and literary heritage, but also to reap the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time outdoors.”
Work on the 13 mile trail included major resurfacing of bridleways and byways by Hampshire County Council’s Countryside Service. The trail links existing public rights of way and small, quiet country lanes from Jane Austen’s former home in Chawton, through Alton, to Selborne - the home of pioneering 18th century naturalist Gilbert White, whose book The Natural History of Selborne is reputed to be the most published book in the world, after the Bible, Shakespeare and Pilgrim’s Progress. The trail, which ends in Four Marks, is also associated with William Cobbett who wrote Rural Rides to highlight the difficult living conditions faced by rural families in the 19th century.
Councillor Glynis Watts, East Hampshire District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, said: “The Writers’ Way tells the story of East Hampshire’s rich literary past and provides walkers and riders with a beautiful, picturesque route through a stunning section of countryside. At the same, the trail opens up exciting potential for the local economy to be supported with people visiting cafes, businesses and shops.”
The £202,000 Writers’ Way was developed and funded by the County Council (£60,000), the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund (£124,000) and East Hampshire District Council (£18,000).
Hampshire County Council has many Jane Austen 200 celebratory events taking place in libraries, country parks and the Hampshire Record Office, from May onwards - many of which are listed online.