18.7km (11.6 miles)
Shorter walk (no pub lunch): 13.8km (8.6 miles)
OS Landranger 185, Explorer 144
4 out of 10.
This is a walk through gently undulating scenery in the north of Hampshire, passing several quaint churches and a fine country house or two, not to mention the source of the River Test. But it also has a big interest for literary fans as it takes to the place where the writer Jane Austen grew up, and past several places that she would have known.
This is in fact Jane Austen's literary landscape. In a letter to a niece, she famously described her novel-writing technique as "getting two or three families together in a country village", and in doing this she was recreating the place where she lived for the first 25 years of her life.
On this walk you pass the site of her childhood home in the village of Steventon (the actual house was demolished soon after Jane's death by her brother Edward, who was adopted by rich relatives and inherited the Steventon estate), and can walk up the lane to the surprisingly small and remote church where her father was vicar.
You also pass Ashe House, where Jane famously flirted with Tom Lefroy (an event that was used as the basis for the film Becoming Jane, which suggested - almost certainly erroneously - that this was Jane's great thwarted love), and Deane House, which is typical of the kind of grand house where the Austens would have socialised.
Further information about each place and the associations they had for Jane can be found in panels within the main walk directions. All of these places are in the first five miles of the walk (ie up to and including Steventon church).
Overton is on the line to Salisbury and served by hourly trains out of Waterloo Monday to Saturday but only every two hours on Sundays. Get the train from London before 10.00am to get to The Fox in time for lunch.
For those who don't require a pub lunch, there is a shortcut at Steventon church which reduces the walk length to 13.8km (8.6 miles).
The Fox in North Waltham (www.thefox.org 01256 397 288) is a popular pub, with a large table-service restaurant and a rather smaller bar area where the full menu is also served. In summer it has an extensive area of outside tables. It offers both more gourmet meals and cheaper pub classics. Food is served from 12-2.30pm Mondays to Saturdays and 12-3pm on Sundays.If The Fox is full or you arrive there too late, a 700 metre walk up a road, admittedly with some fast moving traffic, brings you to the Wheatsheaf Hotel (01256 398 282) on the busy A30. Despite being a chain pub, part of the Premier Inn/Chef & Brewer chain, this is surprisingly characterful place, with an an extensive menu that is served all afternoon. It even has associations with Jane Austen, who almost certainly came here to collect mail or see visitors off by coach.
For picnics, Steventon churchyard is a very pleasant spot
The recommended tea stop, if you can get there in time, is the Overton Gallery (01256 773 143), which has a small tea room (three tables) in winter, but much more space in summer, when its pleasant back garden is also pressed into service. It is open till 5pm on Saturdays, till 5.30pm Tuesday to Friday, but closed on Sunday and Monday.Otherwise the best tea option in Overton is the White Hart Hotel (01256 770237), which has now been thoroughly revamped with comfortable sofas, a dining area and a sun deck out the back. It serves tea in pots and other hot drinks. Food (eg puddings) is served from 6.30pm.
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk