On accidentally visiting Austenland (aka West Wycombe Park)

I’m a planner. Always have been. Those planners amongst you will know how difficult it is for a planner to become anything other than, well, a planner. Even when writing, I’m more of a ‘plotter’ than a ‘pantser’ (as in fly-by-the-seat-of-your). The one time I didn’t plot out my story and just ‘pantsed’ it, I ended up deleting eighty per cent of my work and was found rocking in the corner of my flat, contemplating a career change to that of a truck driver.

But sometimes I wonder if I've planned my life a little too much, possibly at the expense of missing out on other things. I used to be so petrified of not having an answer for those all-important questions - what subjects did I want to do in my last two years of high school? what did I want to study at uni? what career did I want after uni? - that maybe I answered these questions a little too quickly, with a little too much planning, rather than waiting to see where the universe and my subconscious would take me. To be fair, I made some top choices along the way and (mostly) wouldn’t change a thing. But I did always wonder...

Then I decided to move to London. I didn’t want to move to a new city and just recreate the life I had in Melbourne. What would be the point of that? Not only did I want a new life routine (unemployed broke writer, yay!), I also wanted to change the way I did things. I wanted to see what would happen if I planned a little less and just, for want of a better phrase, went with the flow.

I’m also a big lover of Austenland, both the book by Shannon Hale and the film directed by Jerusha Hess and staring the forever-watchable Keri Russell. The book/film is one of the few modern adaptations of anything ‘Jane Austen’ that’s fresh, fun and made me wish I’d written it.
I WISH I'd written this book and then had said book made into a film with the glorious Keri Russell

During my fourth week of living my less-planned life in London, a friend and I decided to have a National Trust mini-break. We settled on visiting West Wycombe Park because it ticked all our requirements (somewhere neither of us had been, under two hours from London, open on a Tuesday). I was excited about seeing a stately home (I LOVE a stately home) and enjoying the sunshine out in nature (but not too much nature. I don’t love too much nature). The day was also a birthday present for me. My lovely friend had offered to pay for the whole day which, as an unemployed broke writer, I very much appreciated. So we headed off on our excursion and arrived at West Wycombe on a bright and sunny Tuesday, right on the property’s opening time of two o’clock.

We bought our tickets and walked through the lush grounds, headed for the house and our 2.30pm tour (we weren’t going to be late for this one as previous experience has proven being late is never a good idea). As we rounded the corner, I noticed a hill to my left with a horse statue in the distance. This looked extremely familiar, which felt…odd. Why would it look familiar? I definitely hadn’t been here before. Then I turned to the right and saw the house. Again, that sense of familiarity took hold until a loud ping went off in my brain.
Hmm, looks familiar
Looks VERY familiar

We.Were.At.AUSTENLAND! What?!?!?!

Yep, the house where the movie was filmed was now right in front of me. This wasn’t planned. This was completely accidental. And it was one of the BEST birthday presents I’ve ever received.
So pretty

Throughout the tour of the house, I could pretty much play out the film in my head. So many of the rooms were familiar, but also completely different with the original furnishings on display along with photos of the family who live in the house year round. Happiness flooded my entire body with every step I took, and even when the tour was over and we walked through the grounds, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. Really, I couldn’t have planned the day any better. And I didn’t need to. Sometimes when you go with the flow, you end up exactly where you always wanted to be.
Really pretty!

(Now, if you haven’t seen the film, go and do yourselves a HUGE favour and watch it!)
Bye Austenland, you've been grand!


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