We took the train from the station at East Croydon, the southernmost borough of London, to Clapham Junction. From there we took the train bound for the seaport of Portsmouth, getting off at the little village of Hazelmere.
My son-in-law Tom’s father Robert took us by car to his daughter Hannah’s cottage atop a hill not far from the village.
It only took a few minutes for my oldest daughter’s mother-in-law Rose to ask me to do one of my favorite things, go on a hike.
Though the weather was cold and damp and the sky overcast, it didn’t matter. Taking in the English countryside on foot afforded me much pleasure.
Invigorated and alive to the world, I was ready for more walking. After being provided a wonderful meal by the new in-laws, including Hannah’s husband, Philip, and their baby Elianna, we headed for the historic and beautiful country of Hampshire to see Jane Austen’s house.
As a writer I had to break the “no photography” rule and snap a quick picture of Jane Austen’s writing desk.
The next hike was to the St. Nicholas Church at Chawton House, Hampshire. There I purchased a prayer card with a poem of Jane Austen’s for the price of 60 pence.
Our last hike in late afternoon was through the village of Selborne to the churchyard where Tom’s eccentric grandmother Kit Cooper is buried. Near the church stands the five-foot-tall remains of the great Yew tree that was a thousand years old before being toppled in a gale in 1990.
The church itself was rebuilt in 1180 A.D. Here history comes alive with every footstep.
Hiking paths fan out from the top of the hill where the church was built. One sign reads “The National Trust, Church Meadow, The Glebe Field.” Here even the trees are protected by law as national treasures.
This part of rural England is beautiful. A look across the stream below the hill we are on shows cottages interspersed among the wooded dales and glens.
The last to leave, I linger one last time in the courtyard and inhale the country air before heading back to Hazelmere and the train to East Croydon station. From there the T33 double-decker bus will take us to our Selsdon Park Hotel.
The word “Selsdon” comes from two Saxon words: “selle” which means a mansion and “dun” which refers to a hill. The earliest mention of the buildings where the hotel now stands can be found in 861 when Duke Aelfrid bequeathed the manor of Selsdon to his wife Werburg in his will.
Queen Elisabeth visited Selsdon often and stayed here when it was called Sanderstead Court. The Queen Anne mansion period style of architecture she enjoyed still stands today among over 230 acres of manicured gardens and open space.
The last morning in England I walk the paths around the hotel for one last hike. The bright sun shines for the first time all week. Of course, we’re leaving.
” Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his hiking adventures with readers every other week. Today’s story comes from his recent trip to England.
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