Maybe it's because 2017 marks 200 years since the death of Jane Austen. Or maybe it's because it's 20 years since a certain young wizard called Harry Potter first appeared on our bookshelves.

Whatever the reason, we've all been invited by Visit England to spend the year celebrating our Literary Heroes - their books and the places they lived, worked and were inspired by.

And not just the obvious destinations, either. Part of the thinking behind the celebrations is to get people visiting our more surprising literary hot-spots. Such as The New Forest.

Forest tourism chief, Anthony Climpson says: "For those who know their literature or where to look, the forest has some amazing literary connections to books about crime, magic and adventure."

He believes that one of the first places any bookworm should look is the village of Beaulieu which, arguably, could be described the forest's literary capital.

Correspondence shows that during the early 19th century, following her family's move to the Southampton area, Jane Austen herself took a turn up the Beaulieu river, accompanying her mother and sister on a boat. The three women passed Buckler's Hard, which would have been a working shipyard at the time.

At the other end of the century, Beaulieu's Montagu Arms Hotel became the base for Arthur Conan Doyle while he researched the background for his adventure novel, The White Company. Far better known for his Sherlock Holmes stories, Conan Doyle was said to regard his adventure novel - set partly in Beaulieu Abbey and Minstead during the Hundred Years War - as a superior work. He later bought a house in the area - Bignall Wood near Minstead. Conan Doyle's body was interred in the grounds at All Saints Church, Minstead.

The forest is home to another literary grave - that of Alice Liddell, better known as the inspiration behind Alice in Wonderland. Under her married name of Alice Hargreaves she came to live in Lyndhurst and was a society hostess but at the age of four she met Charles Dodgson - better known as Lewis Carroll - and unwittingly became the inspiration for the little girl in Alice's Adventures Under Ground, the first draft of the Alice stories. She died in 1934 aged 82 and her grave can still be seen in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels in Lyndhurst.

Other writers connected to or inspired by the New Forest include Nevil Shute, who based part of his wartime adventure story, Requiem for a Wren, on his experiences during his time billeted at Exbury House during World War II, and Captain Marryat, whose story of the plucky Children of the New Forest became a smash hit following its publication in 1847.

*The New Forest will be supporting the Year of Literary Heroes. For more information visit