Of all places to find Jane Austen, who would think The New Forest in Hampshire, England? Writer Janet Halliday cleverly thought of this idea as she was inspired by Austen’s adventures in the nearby village of Beaulieu. Halliday details the wildlife, plant life and springtime beauty of The New Forest in our latest article.
Literary Traveler: When is the best time to visit The New Forest i.e. spring, autumn?
Janet Halliday: All the seasons have their joys, but my special favourite is late spring/early summer; say May and June. In spring there’s the fresh green foliage, bluebells and primroses; in summer the foals are everywhere and the fabulous honey-scented heather makes the moor areas purple; and in autumn the russets and golds as the trees change colour are lovely. Winter is maybe best avoided, though, as it can be very wet and muddy.
LT: Do you think Austen’s time spent in Beaulieu had an influence on her famous works in any way?
JH: I’m no expert on Austen, but given her powers of observation I’d be surprised if some of the things she experienced on those visits didn’t end up in her works, even if the material isn’t specifically referenced to Beaulieu.
LT: Are you scared of the wild pigs of The New Forest? We have wild boars in the US and they’re pretty big and terrifying.
JH: No. Just give them a respectfully wide berth – especially if they have piglets – and they’ll ignore you. They aren’t ‘wild pigs’, they’re domestic ones being allowed to forage, but you should adopt the same cautious attitude to them as to any large, untethered animal.
Incidentally you should never, never feed any of the ponies/cows/pigs/donkeys. It encourages them to come close to roads, to pester people, and to be less self-reliant. They are monitored by their owners and by the Verderers (people charged with the management of grazing in the forest) and if conditions mean the animals need extra feed, the owners will provide it.
Please continue onto our latest article, Ponies & Tranquility, Jane Austen’s New Forest.