Camper Full Of Animals – In Which There is Much Austen And A Lumberjack Angel

Luckily the mechanic I found could help (R Streetly, near Alconbury, they don’t have a website for me to link), although they only took cash, so while I was waiting for the tire they ordered for me to come, I got to trek to the nearest cash point. Which was not close.

Then I had to wait around for the tire to turn up. Eventually getting to Surrey at something like nine o’clock at night, which doesn’t sound very late but believe me it felt late when I’d spent the night in a noisy robbery park.

I’m going to skip forward a week now as, due to the sheer volume and expense of the break downs I needed to not spend any more money.

So I spent the week sheltering under the good will of my friend at their house before setting off again. Another tip for aspiring campers, make lots of friends in lots of places, and then take shameless advantage of them.

Anyway, I set off once again. Not 100% sure where I wanted to go, but I headed south four a couple of hours, until I felt like stopping. I found myself in Alton, and while I had nothing specific to do in Alton I remembered it as being a town near one of the things on my list of 118 things to do in the UK, that being the Jane Austen house museum.

I got a little lost in town, as there are several signs, that most towns have,  pointing to ‘city centre’ and ‘other routes’ despite constantly following the ‘other routes’ signs I kept ending up in the centre, so never follow the signs in Alton is the lesson here. Eventually I knew the roads well enough to see myself out and, quite tired after doubling back on myself like a million times, pulled into a farmer’s field, intending to take ten minutes to relax before finding a place to sleep for the night.

I wasn’t there five minutes before someone knocked on my window, making sure I wasn’t planning to sleep in the field. Assuring the man I wasn’t, he seemed satisfied and walked off. However that wasn’t the end of it, as he returned a few moments later with his business card and the offer that I could park up in his drive if I was stuck for places to stay.

Not having any idea where I was sleeping I accepted his offer (for those worried about my safety, don’t worry too much, I kept the doors locked, with every intention of keeping them that way and driving off if the man turned out to be committing a dirty ruse).

As it turned out, there was no ruse. If anything the man turned out to be a guardian angel of sorts, only significantly gruffer and more masculine than the average dress wearing angel (he being a tree surgeon/lumber jack kind of deal) with a seemingly permanent bark in hair situation.

I’m going to shamelessly plug his business here, so if you need any tree work done in the Hampshire area check him out here.

I intruded on his hospitality for two nights, and on both he invited me inside, on the second enjoying Chinese together, he tried charging my leisure battery to give me an idea of just how broken it was (I need a new one, hurrah, more fixes to make) and gave me a spare transit wheel that he apparently had just lying around (mine having broken in the motorway tire incident).

I was honestly quite alarmed by his hospitality, no one, I reasoned, is this nice without wanting something in return.  It turns out I am too cynical, he didn’t want anything, I honestly felt a little ashamed of myself for thinking such a thing after I left.

But back to travel activities. I spent my day in Alton checking out the Jane Austen house, which I quite enjoyed. A lot of the artefacts they have are a bit of a stretch. I would not consider an old Clueless doll (apparently the film’s based on Emma, which, having read the book and seen the film I did not get…) worthy of display. But they did also have the table Jane Austen wrote most of her great works at, samples of wall paper from her bedroom, a shawl Austen embroidered herself, and a lot of interesting information about Cassandra. Plus, you know, the museum itself is actually the house Austen lived in, which is cool in itself.

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At only an £8 entry, with a few hours worth of reading and examining, and very knowledgeable curators ready to answer questions in a friendly manner (well, the curator I dealt with was both of those things at least ), I was happy to have gone.

There is also, if you park up opposite, a part of Jane’s brother’s estate, that is still a walking path that she herself used to enjoy with her sister. If you’re short on cash this is free, and Caspian and I enjoyed a half hour potter, 100% not pretending to be Dashwood’s as we went.

I had my final night on the Lumberman/Saints drive way and, on his suggestion, went to Selbourne the next day, which is (I found out when I arrived) the home town of famous naturalist Gilbert White.

Who I had never heard of because I am very well educated.

Nor can I, having looked him up now, comment on the value of his museum in the village as, having so little interest in the man I had no idea who he was until that morning, I didn’t go in. One might say that knowing nothing about the man would be the best reason to go in his museum. However, sadly, I’m going to have to be rather selective with museums as my ill advised travelling trip has a rather tight budget.

However, museum or not I can recommend Selbourne, there was another walk, this one a zigzag path up a steep hill (apparently cut by White himself) which let out into a beautiful forest, in which I felt completely alone, bar the cows which followed me disturbingly closely for about ten minutes.

The village itself offered the grave of White around the back of the church, a potter’s studio (in which I made a friend) and the world’s most adorable tea shop.

All in all, not a bad area of England. Stamp of approval.

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