16 APR 2019: Autumn can be an awesome time of the year in Britain, an observation not lost on John Keats, whose heartfelt ode “To Autumn” is regarded by many as one of the most perfect short poems in the English language. Penned 200 years ago on Sept. 19, 1819, the classic composition paints a portrayal of a season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” and urges readers to “think not” of the songs of Spring.

Visitors planning a visit to Britain in the fall months can discover Keats’ inspiration in Winchester, Hampshire, where the British bard was inspired to write the poem after a walk near Winchester one autumnal evening.

And to make it easier, Visit Hampshire has put together the Keats’ Walk, an approximately 3-km. self-guided walk in the footsteps of the poet, from the city visitor information centre through the Winchester Cathedral Close to St. Cross Hospital, passing through the landscape, including St. Catherine’s Hill, that inspired his famous poem.

There are plenty of great places to pause for a bite along the way, note tourism officials, who add that there are a plethora of ideal picnic spots as well.

Groups can enlist the service of the guide to help discover the sites.

Winchester also offers the base for plenty of autumnal walking from the city centre directly into the South Downs National Park.

The setting will also help to introduce the visitor to Hampshire’s best-known author – Jane Austen – whose grave can be found inside Winchester Cathedral, one of the many venues in Hampshire which marked the 200th anniversary of her death in 2017.

From Winchester, it’s a short drive to Chawton, and a chance to see Jane Austen's House Museum and Chawton House Library.

Another seasonal place to visit would be Gilbert White's House in Selborne, which contains the story of the pioneering naturalist who is regarded by many as England's first ecologist, and someone who shaped the modern attitude of respect for nature.

As a rural county, autumn is a time of harvesting in Hampshire and there are plenty of food-and drink options to reflect this throughout Hampshire: from its vineyards, to its cider making at somewhere like Upper Neatham Mill.

Autumn is also the time when Hampshire celebrates its local food and drink at events such as the Winchester Harvest Weekend (Oct. 5-6, 2019), and the Emsworth British Food Fortnight, which typically runs at the end of September/beginning of October.

Wine Festival Winchester, meanwhile, takes place Nov. 29-30 this year. And additional Autumnal breaks take place throughout the county.

Examples of where it’s possible to enjoy an especially seasonal stay include:

Lainston House Hotel, Winchester:  This 17th-century country house boasts a wide variety of rooms and suites, and an award-winning 3 AA Rosette restaurant. From £185 B&B, based on double occupancy.

Upper Neatham Mill, Alton: This relaxing B&B is the perfect location for an autumnal break in Hampshire. The converted 17th-century barn on the banks of the River Wey also runs a popular two-day cider making course during the autumn months. Priced from around £80 per room, per night B&B.

Winchester is located near Southampton, about 100 km. southwest of London and is accessible directly by rail from both cities. Information can be found HERE.

To Autumn

John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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