Selborne is situated within the South Downs National Park and is the largest of the three villages in the Parish. It was made famous by naturalist Gilbert White and is home to many fascinating walks, rare natural sights and beautiful views particularly from the top of the Zig Zag Path carved into Selborne Hanger, part of the Hanger’s Way and a route straight up to Selborne Common.
The village is home to Gilbert White’s House and the Oates Collection – a museum which attracts tourists from around the world to view the home of the eighteenth century naturalist and the exhibits of Lawrence Oates who went with Captain Scott on the fated expedition to the South Pole in 1912, and Frank Oates, famous for his journey to the Victoria Falls. Refreshments are available.
Selborne has a number of Grade 11 Listed buildings fronting the High Street and in Gracious Street. The Wakes (Gilbert White’s Museum) and St Mary’s Church are both Grade 1. There are a number of pretty thatched cottages, and the village is surrounded by land owned by the National Trust.
The village is also home to a range of interesting shops, a public house, public lavatories (in the car park to the rear of the pub), along with a church, primary school and a recreation ground with playground, tennis courts and pavilion.
Opposite Gilbert White’s House, The Wakes, is The Plestor, the village green and which means “play place”. The Plestor is surrounded by listed buildings and leads to the church and the war memorial. If you pass through the churchyard you will reach the Lythes (see below).
St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s Church (Grade I listed) at the top of The Plestor is open during daylight hours. It was built about 1180 probably on the site of a Saxon church, and has one of the oldest clocks in Hampshire, although with only one hand! It contains two fine stained glass windows commemorating Gilbert White. The first depicts Francis of Assisi, the Parish of Selborne and the birds mentioned in ‘The Natural History of Selborne’; the second was dedicated to mark the bicentenary of White’s death. In the churchyard can be seen the grave of Gilbert White and the base of the famous Yew Tree believed to be 1400 years old but sadly blown down in the storms of 1990.
Shops, Public House and Accommodation
There is a cafe at Gilbert White’s House and a shop which offers an interesting selection of unusual gifts and books. Click here for further information.
The Selborne Arms serves local produce in its extensive menu and offers real ales, wines and hot drinks. It is a listed building with a large garden and play area and has real fires and a friendly atmosphere. Click here for further information.
La Luna Coffee Shop offers sandwiches, cakes, hot drinks and a very warm welcome.
Maias Flowers is next to La Luna in the heart of the village.
Selborne Pottery is just off The Plestor. The potters are often working on their wheels and there is a wide range of their specialised pottery for sale.
Nicholas Lees, sculpturist, is based at The Gallery on The Plestor.
There are a number of holiday apartments available to let within the village and in nearby Newton Valence. Glamping is available close by at East Worldham. For further information click here.
The Lythes and The Hanger
The Lythes to the east of the village and The Hanger overlooking the village with its zig-zag path cut by Gilbert White and his brother, are part of the 275 acres of National Trust meadow, woodland and common and are open all the year. A leaflet describing the walks over the land is on sale in the village Post Office and in the shop at Gilbert White’s House, or visit the National Trust web page on Selborne Common and the Lythe for more details.
Gilbert White’s House
The Rev. Gilbert White (1720-1793) was author of the world famous ‘Natural History of Selborne’ and is regarded as England’s first ecologist. He lived in The Wakes for most of his life. The rooms have been furnished in the 18th century style and include items of his furniture, beautifully embroidered bed hangings and portraits of his family. The original manuscript is also on display.
The garden is well documented by White and has been restored to its 18th century form. Well established is his ‘Quincunx’, Six Quarters displaying many of the fascinating cultivated plants known to White and a naturalists garden with pond and native species.
His brick path leads to the stone ha ha, sundial and part of his fruit wall and, in the park, a revolving ‘Wine Pipe’ surveys the parkland and magnificent beech clad hanger.
Old varieties of vegetables and hot beds for melons and cucumbers add further interest. There is always a good selection of unusual plants for sale.
The Oates Museum
Two interesting exhibitions commemorate the Oates family and their exploits. Captain Lawrence Oates accompanied Scott to the South Pole and uttered the famous words “I am just going outside. I may be some time” as he left his tent to walk to his death: relics of their ill fated expedition are on display. His uncle, Frank Oates, was a remarkable Victorian explorer and his journeys to South America and South Africa are graphically illustrated.
Field Studies Centre
Courses for students from schools and colleges on natural history and the environment are led by highly trained staff. For further details click here.
Selborne Common – information provided by the National Trust Selborne Local Committee
The whole of Selborne Common is designated as ‘open access’ land under the Countryside Rights of Way (CROW) act and is therefore open to walkers. There are also two routes which horse riders can use. To help both riders and walkers, blue topped posts marking the statutory bridleways and permitted route on Selborne Common are clearly marked. The statutory bridleways, which can be used by horse riders, run along the western boundary of the common from east Tisted/Selborne Road to the west end of Gracious Street at Northfield Hill. There is also a statutory bridleway link from Newton Valence to the common, to view the map please click here.