I spent my last night in the south in a place called Four Marks, between Winchester and Alton, and walked down in the morning to Selborne – I read the Natural History last summer, and was keen to see the place itself.
Not quite as early a start as I had hoped, but a fairly pleasant walk down – a slanting path on a line obviously older than the houses which squeezed around it, onto a woodland track, and then a second wood partly filled with bluebells, and minor roads leading me to Newton Valence.
From there paths lead over the hill of Selborne Common, partly trees and partly grass, and used for grazing by the National Trust who own it in an attempt to keep the old wood-pasture habitat.
The north-eastern edge of the common is much steeper, and the first view of the village is from well above.
The way down from the common, or at least the quickest way, is the Zigzag Path, made by Gilbert White and his brother in 1753 for easier access to the common. It definitely deserves its name!
I went first to the church, where of course White was the curate – a very old church, but not at all like most of the churches I had walked past on my journey.
An ancient yew stood in the churchyard, and was described by White, but blew down in a storm in 1990.
His grave is round behind the church – he had asked to be buried in as simple a way as possible.
From there I went on to the museum in the White family home, The Wakes – extended in White’s day, and again later.
The exhibition inside is a bit of a muddle – already partly about the house itself and changes made to it by White, partly about his work, and partly about Captain Oates and his uncle, another naturalist, most of the White sections were either in a severe state of refurbishment, with information boards moved and partly hidden, or being used by people connected with a wedding fair.
The gardens outside are also open for walking about – the haha and sundial were built by White.
Every self-respecting garden of his day had a statue, but when he started making his garden he wasn’t able to afford one, and instead had a painting of a statue made on a board – reasonably deceptive from a distance!