Gilbert White and Selborne Common

Walking up Selborne's quirky Zig-Zag path

The Reverend Gilbert White (1720-1793) was a pioneering naturalist, and lived for most of his life in a house in Selborne called ‘The Wakes’.

His book ‘The Natural History of Selborne’ was published in 1789 and provided an invaluable record of the landscape and its wealth of wildlife, including descriptions of many now rare plants and animals.
 
The landscape that Gilbert White described was created by traditional ways of working the land, many of which have been lost during the last two centuries.
 
The description of Selborne Common at the beginning of White’s book still holds true today;
 
‘A vast hill of chalk rising three hundred feet above the village…..it is divided into a sheep down, the high wood and a long hanging wood called the Hanger. The glorious beech woodland which overlooks the village is called the Hanger. The name hanger comes from the old English ‘hangra’ meaning a wooded slope.'
 
The famous Zig Zag and Bostal paths were constructed by Gilbert White in 1753 and 1779.