A CHARITY fundraiser is walking the Jane Austen Trail 272 times to help homeless young people.

Gordon Pope keeps trekking from author Elizabeth Gaskell’s house in Holybourne to Jane Austen’s home in Chawton for his Step By Step 272 Challenge.

The number of walks comes from Aldershot-based Step By Step accommodating and supporting 272 young local people every night.

Mr Pope said: “I am taking on the Step By Step 272 Challenge to raise funds and awareness of the fantastic work Step By Step does in preventing youth homelessness locally.

“These young people are given, in-house, all the practical and emotional support required to lead an independent life on a continuous basis, with more than 90 per cent progressing to lead an independent life. The average age is 16¼, 60 per cent are young women and the average stay with Step By Step is 18 months.”

This year five of those helped are off to various universities – King’s College London, Loughborough University, St George’s University of London, Central Saint Martins art college and Bournemouth University.

Mr Pope added: “I wanted to create awareness of the outstanding work Step by Step offers our community, and raise funds for the accommodation and wraparound support so desperately needed by our young people.

“Choosing a local walk that could be repeated 272 times became easy when realising famous author Elizabeth Gaskell lived in Holybourne and famous author Jane Austen lived in Chawton – so why not walk from one to the other, taking in The Jane Austen Trail along the way? While the distance between the two is not very far, by the time the challenge is completed it adds up to 816 miles – that’s assuming I get a lift back.”

Libby Tempest, who chairs The Gaskell Society, said: “Such a worthwhile cause – one I’m sure Mrs Gaskell would have supported wholeheartedly.”

Jane Austen’s House director Lizzie Dunford added: “We offer a loud message of support and encouragement to Gordon in his walk between Elizabeth Gaskell’s house in Holybourne and Chawton Cottage. This is important work to support those in great need in our community.”

So far Gordon has completed 192 walks and raised £1,940. He can be sponsored at www.