Jane adored the countryside of her native Hampshire so much that she “would sometimes say she thought it must form one of the joys of heaven”.
From her first home in Steventon, she would walk the lanes to visit friends in other clerical families, or up the high street to the coaching inn to pick up the post. When it was wet, she wore clumpy, noisy ‘pattens’ or wooden clogs, held on over normal shoes by an iron ring. She enjoyed a good freeze in winter because it made it easier to walk over the mud.
Jane’s heroines are bold walkers: Lizzy Bennet leaps hedges to reach her sick sister in Pride and Prejudice, Emma Watson tells a stupid aristocrat in The Watsons, who thinks ladies shouldn’t walk, but ride, that riding is far too expensive. “Female Economy will do a great deal, my lord,” she says, “but it cannot turn a small income into a large one.” Jane herself could never afford a horse. As she grew older, though, and her strength began to fail, she did drive about in a donkey carriage.
Unlike a grand lady in a big house, Jane Austen, a farmer’s daughter, was more than familiar with the difficulties of scratching a living from the soil.