Those who know the downs and chalk streams of Hampshire are quietly fortunate but rarely boastful. So it is fascinating to rediscover this home county on the eastern edge of Wessex as a place of extraordinary richness. Those rounded chalk hills have protected not only the ancient capital of Anglo-Saxon England but also the two-thousand-year-old arsenal-harbour of the Royal Navy. It was in Hampshire that the novel reached its fullest expression through the native genius of Jane Austen where fly-fishing and cricket were first organized and whence D-day was launched. But not the least of its claims is that it is also the heartland of nature writing where Gilbert White first opened up a whole universe of observation to the world by confining himself to the infinite details of his Hampshire parish of Selborne. It is a tradition which was furthered in the county by W H Hudson observing nature in the wooded heathlands of the New Forest and reached its apogee with the night walks of the poet Edward Thomas before his early death in the trenches. If Hampshire is revealed to be a crystalisation of all quiet virtues of England we also get to delight in the affectionate mocking attention of Beryl Bainbridge P G Wodehouse and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.