A Trip to Selborne (pt.1)

In January, we took a trip to the village of Selborne in Hampshire. The village is most famous for being the home of the pioneering naturalist and ornithologist Gilbert White (1720-1793), who is widely regarded as England's first ecologist. He is best known for his papers 'The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne', published in 1789. 

Gilbert White and Selborne
Selborne, as mentioned above, is a small village in the Hampshire countryside, best known for the book "The Natural History of Selborne" by 18th century naturalist Gilbert White. White's home in the village is now a museum about his work.

Also in Selborne is St. Mary's Church. The church is featured in William the Conquerer's Domesday Book of 1086, with the current church probably originating from the late 1100s. St. Mary's Church was greatly restored in the mid 1800s, by Gilbert White's great nephew. White himself is commemorated in the church in the form of a stained glass window featuring St. Francis and all the species of birds from White's book.

A section of the stained glass window

In his book, White writes about the natural history in the area around his home in a series of letters addressed to Thomas Pennant, a leading British zoologist at the time, and Daines Barrington, an English barrister. He documents the wildlife not only in the gardens around his house but also in part of Selborne Common, an area of forest and meadow that lies on a hill to the west, overlooking the village. This is the area we headed for to see what wildlife we could see along the same paths Gilbert White followed over 200 years ago.

White's house and the church, viewed from the common

Our Trip to Selborne
Our first visit to Selborne consisted of a short walk around Selborne Common. The easiest path up the hill to the common is the Zig-Zag, a small track built by Gilbert White and his brother in 1753. Ever since its construction, it has been the primary access point for visitors to the common.

The zig-zag, viewed from the village

Once at the top, we took a route that took us around the side of the common, away from the main paths. Here, we saw two Roe Deer through a small gap in the trees, but they didn't hang around for long; darting off into the foliage. Unfortunately, we didn't see much more activity for quite a while. It was only once we had reached a small clearing off to the side of the path that we saw our next animal. In the trees surrounding us were numerous Goldcrests amongst other small birds including Chaffinch, Blue Tit and a possible Blackcap.


Once we were back down in the village, we came across one more small bird hopping around in the bushes by a small stream near the church. After taking a few photographs, we think it may have been a Marsh Tit. Unfortunately it didn't stay long, but the sun was going down a treat behind us, lighting up the stream in a golden light.

Our short trip to Selborne had offered us a small insight into White's work and the area in which he worked. But we would return to focus more on the wildlife of Selborne and the common.


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