Incorporating five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including the South Downs and the New Forest National Park, Hampshire is one of England's most celebrated rural counties. Rolling chalk hills, dramatic coastline, myriad heritage sites and historic port towns are all linked via 3,000 miles of Rights of Way, which often take the forms of bridle paths and secluded byways.
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The region was previously administered under Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman sovereignty, and retains attractions from each respective era, plus many examples from subsequent English rule. Among the most impressive are the abandoned Roman city of Calleva Atrebatum in Silchester; Stratfield Saye House, home to the Dukes of Wellington since 1817; the exquisite Broadlands mansion with its gardens by Capability Brown; and the ruins of the 13th-century Beaulieu Abbey, which is also home to the National Motor Museum.
The somewhat obliquely named New Forest is, of course, also a legacy from the Norman age. Designated a royal hunting ground by William the Conqueror in 1079, its official 92,000 acres form the same boundaries today as they did then, albeit with somewhat fewer trees (mainly due to shipbuilding at Portsmouth and Southampton). Younger visitors love to see the unique New Forest wild ponies, which were first recorded here by Canute's Forest Law in 1016.
Hampshire's literary connections include strong ties with Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, who were both born in the county. Dickens' Birthplace Museum is in Portsmouth. Austen's Cottage in the village of Chawton is located 13.6 miles South of Basingstoke.This where Jane wrote Mansfield Park and revised Pride and Prejudice. Both of them are are both popular with tourists.