Did you know that 2017 is officially England’s Year of Literary Heroes? Which means there’s never been a better time to take yourself- or the kids- on a little literacy tour in your New Forest Safari Camper.
If you’re holidaying in the New Forest, don’t forget to visit Beaulieu and gaze upon Palace House, where Sherlock Holmes’ creator Arthur Conan Doyle set his adventure story The White Company (you could even enjoy a swift drink at the nearby Montagu Arms, where the great man stayed during this time.)
Travel on to All Saints Church, Minstead, and look for his grave, placed as far possible from the church itself, because, it’s said, he died a spiritualist “unbeliever.”
The forest is home to another literary grave- that of Alice Liddell, better known as the inspiration behind Alice in Wonderland. Alice died in 1934 aged 82 and her grave can be seen in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels in Lyndhurst.
Take your camper up to north Hampshire and to the village of Chawton where you can see the home of Jane Austen (in time to celebrate the bicentenary of her death), or take yourselves to the seafaring city of Portsmouth where you can find the Charles Dickens museum where the Victorian era’s greatest Chronicler was born.
Portsmouth is also worth a visit if you’re a fan of the fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. The city has named a road The Ocean At The End of The Lane after his novel of the same name, and the area is peppered with the landscapes he grew up in and adapted for his novels, including White Hart Lane in nearby Porchester.
Lovers of Thomas Hardy should drive west to Dorchester, inspiration for the fictional Casterbridge of his novels and the place he saw the hanging of Elizabeth Martha Brown, whose tragic story was the basis for Tess of the D’urbervilles. Nearby is his former home, Max Gate, which is now a National Trust Property.
From there you can follow Jane Austen’s footsteps west again, to Lyme Regis, and see the famous Cobb, which played such a huge part in the John Fowles novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Further on still is the mysterious Chesil Beach, which inspired the haunting- and Booker Prize winning- novel by Ian McEwan, which was made into a film starring Emily Watson.
But if it’s smashing times you’re after, then head back east onto the Isle of Purbeck (don’t worry, its not actually an island!) and into Enid Blyton Country.
Famous five fans will soon spot some familiar sights, including Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, or “Keep Away Island” as it’s called in Five Have a Mystery to Solve. Craggy Corfe Castle was the inspiration for the ruined Kirrin Castle and the “Mystery Moor” is reputedly based on heathland between the Blue Pool and The Ridge at Stoborough.
The sea pool created in the rocks at Dancing Ledge near Langton Matravers is said to be the one upon which Enig based the swimming pool at Malory Towers, but it must be approached and used with care, because of the rocks and tidal hazards.
And- of course- don’t forget to bring lashings of ginger beer!
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