Thursday, July 12, 2012

jane austen country - hampshire !

The day began promisingly. The sky was a bright blue and the sun was out. I can see now why the English are obsessed with the weather. Any reprieve from the usual greyness makes your heart jump up and down like a toddler on a sugar high.

As the train pulled out of Waterloo, industrial landscapes gave way for lush green forests and quaint little villages dotted along the rail line.

We arrived at Alton station and took a car through the village towards our first destination Chawton House. We were talking so I didn't realise straight away when we were making our way up the drive. I turned around and that's when I saw this majestic sight:

A real country house.

I was in heaven. All my wild dreams stirred up by BBC periods dramas have come true.

I now have absolutely no compunction in marrying some British Lord for money, if it means that I get to spend long luxurious weekends in places like this.

I stepped out of the car and into the sunlight. It was like someone had turned the saturation up. Greens were greener, blues were bluer. I could hear nothing - but birds singing.

I had gone back in time - to a rural English idyll of yester-year.

More than 200 acres of green English countryside as far as the eye could see.

The interior of the House was a profusion of Elizabethan dark wood panelling - plush furnishings and the smell of old family money.

The House is a working library geared towards female writers of the 18th C which naturally means it has a wonderful library full of rare books! My fingers itched to pull each one down from the shelf by turn and spend hours in one of the gorgeous window seats reading them.

We weren't allowed to take pictures - so I've stolen this one to add atmosphere to my blog post.
 We snaked our way through the corridors and up spiralling stairwells, over uneven original floorboards which creaked with every step, while the ancestors of the Knight family who owned the house followed us with their eyes from their portraits on the wall. I wondered what they might think of some upstart rabble students trouncing through their dining hall, and drawing rooms!

To think of the hundreds of souls to have passed through the house - sent little shiver up my spine. A house like this cannot stand without soaking up some of the lives of the peoples who inhabited it. It is why I love England - it is saturated in human history. In the dining room there is a carving above the fireplace commemorating the silver marriage anniversary of one of the owners - they are both long dead, but they will not be forgotten - you cannot get more romantic than that!

I sat at a dining table that Jane Austen would've eaten at, looked out the window at the views that she would've contemplated as she thought about her next chapter and walked through the grounds that she herself would've walked through.

This red rubber duckie was just sitting there considering the meaning of life when we stumbled upon it. This little moment kind of made my day.

Look at me! I'm in the "wilderness".

For lunch we stopped at Cassandra's Tea Room - the cutest quaintest little tourist trap I've ever seen.

With tea cups on the ceiling...

...and jacket potatoes and home made scones on the menu!

We continued to Chawton Cottage - another Jane Austen museum - where we played Jane Austen inspired games - and even touched real items from the collection. No stuffy glass cases here to ruin the experience.

(You have to say it in a Cockney London accent....yeah - see? It works...)

The smell of lavender in the kitchen was heady and delicious. I could've bathed myself in it.

"Expect a most agreeable letter, for not being overburdened with subject (having nothing at all to say), I shall have no check to my genius from beginning to end."  

Jane Austen said this in one of her letters. Beautifully ironic as always. This is sometimes how I feel about my blog but thank you for reading anyway. I do it more for myself than for you, but it warms the heart to see your comments below ;)


  1. Aww! I love how excited you are! That is the real way to appreciate a townhouse.

  2. Oh God... I can practically see Darcy galloping up the driveway on a purebred horse... maybe I should drop by your place and pick up some more BBC period dramas from your collection Ash :)


Comments are love.