The Jane Austen Experience, Box Hill

Many of my friends who live in London made one explicit resolution this year. To make sure that they get out of London once a month. Even if it is just for an afternoon and it doesn’t have to be far. A day trip outside of the London bubble is preferable but it’s enough to extend yourself into a place where someone will take your Oyster card, shake their head and say, “That ain’t no use around these parts. Apple Pay maybe but no Oyster.”

Given the time of year with the temperatures nudging en fuego and Tube carriages turned into an institute for the advancement of BO, it is a great feeling to be able to alight onto a train platform where you’re not immediately jostled into the path of another irate passenger. It is also a great time to take advantage of a rare year where the weather doesn’t conform to Lord Byron’s quip of “The English winter – ending in July to recommence in August”.

One of these very accessible places is Box Hill in Surrey. Home to the Surrey Hills, it is also tied in with an abundance of literary history. George Meredith, one of the most famous novelists and poets of the 19th century resided here and the Burford Bridge Inn was where John Keats completed one of his most famous poems, Endymion.

However, it is the legacy of Jane Austen that marks Box Hill as a place to visit. The hills that overlook the valley are the setting for one of the most important scenes in one of her most important books Emma. It is where Austen sets the scene of Emma disgracing herself at a picnic, triggering a certain amount of introspection and a desire to be less selfish.

The views are overwhelming even though it requires a large degree of effort to get to the location where Austen set part of her story. However, there is a way of galvanising yourself for the ascent or rewarding yourself after the descent. The Mercure Box Hill Burford Bridge Hotel is offering an afternoon tea, priced at £19.95, which is composed of Austen’s favourite Bath Buns, sandwiches, fancies and tarts. The hotel also provides a copy of the limited edition Local Stories walking map which has been developed in conjunction with the Dorking History Museum to celebrate the life and works of Jane Austen who has the bicentenary of her death this year.

The Mercure Box Hill Burford Bridge Hotel
At the Foot of Box Hill

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