Back in 1926 a honey loving yellow teddy bear was being born – A.A Milne created possibly one of the worlds best known bears, Winnie the Pooh! Along with a young boy Christopher Robin and the rest of the gang – Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Roo and Kanga, they set off on many adventures around the forest in which they lived.
The tranquil Ashdown Forest situated in East Sussex, England was the setting for the Pooh books. A. A Milne lived in a quaint cottage situated in the forest and this is where his inspiration stemmed from. The forest is part of the High Weald – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and many locations in the stories can be linked to real places in and around the forest. I remembered reading somewhere about this Pooh themed forest but I had forgotten all about it until a friend asked me if I had been there. I hadn’t so there was only one thing to do … go and check it out!! (Still taking requests for future adventures 😉
As Christopher Milne wrote in his autobiography: “Pooh’s forest and Ashdown Forest are identical”. For example, the fictional Hundred Acre Wood was in reality Five Hundred Acre Wood; Galleon’s Lap was inspired by the prominent hilltop of Gill’s Lap, while a clump of trees just north of Gill’s Lap became Christopher Robin’s The Enchanted Place. Why was it enchanted? Because no-one had ever been able to count whether there were sixty-three or sixty-four trees in it! Either they were all really bad at maths or it was definitely enchanted I’d say.
There are many car parks dotted all the way along the roads in Ashdown Forest each with their own name. You are never too far away to go exploring a new part of the forest and there are plenty of walks and trails to follow. I started the day at Gill’s Lap car park for the first part of my Pooh adventure, known as Galleon’s Lap in the Pooh books.
One of the stories told in the books was Christopher Robin’s idea to make an exploration to the North Pole and this is the route they took through the forest. I was fairly certain that this would not lead me to the Arctic circle although I did see some great views and wildlife. Firstly I encountered Christopher Robin’s Enchanted Place. As well of being enchanted it was apparently the only place in the forest where the friends could sit down without worrying about prickly vegetation! Ouch! The walk then takes you past the Heffalump Trap which was supposedly Pooh’s trap to catch the rare Heffalump beast! It is a small hollow with a lone pine tree although some contest it is this location. In the story Piglet digs the hole while Pooh goes in search of honey to bait the trap. Who else would go get the honey? 🙂
I then stumbled upon the Milne and Shepherd (Illustrator) memorial. A.A Milne had a son called Christopher who Christopher Robin is based on in the Pooh stories. Christopher would later write about a place his father used to sit (and also Pooh in the story) and look out across the countryside. This was it.
The view was stunning! As I continued my way down the bridle track I then came across Roo’s Sandy Pit, a disused quarry. It’s not so sandy anymore but it’s also supposedly the site where Pooh has a dark moment after Roo is kidnapped. Luckily that story had a happy ending!! The woodland on the far side of the valley appears as ‘Five Hundred Acre Wood’ on the Ordnance Survey map but Pooh knew better: to him it was the Hundred Acre Wood. It is mentioned in the story in which Eeyore loses a tail and Pooh finds one. Pooh went to visit Owl, whose house was in the wood (100 Aker Wood on the plan drawn by Christopher Robin and Mr Shepard), for advice on the sore subject of Eeyore’s lost tail. Pooh used the same route down into the valley that was, and is, used while searching for the North Pole.
“It is a real forest with giant beech trees, all dark and mysterious. You would need to be a brave explorer to venture into the Five Hundred Acre at night, and I never did.”
– Christopher Milne
In the story, It was Christopher Robin who had the idea of an expedition to discover the North Pole. Nobody was quite sure what it was, including Christopher Robin who told Pooh that it was just a thing you discover. He makes it sound so easy!! In Pooh’s hands (or paws) it became an ‘expotition’ and he spread the word to the rest of the gang. Led by Christopher Robin a long line, including all Rabbit’s friends and relations, started out through the forest. At the bottom of the valley they came to a stream where Roo unfortunately fell in. The site is a small flat path across the water. Fortunately Pooh discovered the North Pole and used it to rescue Roo. The pole was stuck into the ground and Christopher Robin tied a notice to it:
NorTH PoL E
PooH FouND IT
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
It would have been a nice little touch to have a re-created the North Pole and notice at this spot to bring it to life I thought! Maybe there are reasons why there isn’t one. To end the walk I followed the bridle path around the valley and back to the car park. As I had plans to do other walks across the forest, I decided to drive over to a different car park (Lintons) which was closer to Pooh Sticks Bridge, however if you are keen hiker and want to make a day of it, there are walks that take in all the Pooh sites across the forest in one go (something in hindsight, I wish I had done – I was largely unprepared with my map printing! doh). The walk to Pooh Sticks Bridge was a nice walk through the forest – Following the signs to Pooh Bridge.
I even encountered Pooh himself with some small jars of honey!! 😉 There is apparently a rather clever way to win Pooh Sticks – I would say running water is a start, which wasn’t really apparent on the day I visited! It was 25 degrees outside and barely trickling. I did chuckle to myself as I passed a lady holding a wad of sticks in preparation to play. Good Luck with that!
Walking around the forest certainly works up an appetite and there is plenty of village pubs and tea rooms dotted around. It was only right that I had a lunch at Pooh’s Corner shop and Piglets Tea room Garden- a lovely little tea room in the village of Hartfield. Not only is it a tea room but it has an adjoining shop filled with Pooh-phernalia. Toys, gifts, games – Everything Pooh!!!
After lunch I took a walk around the village and church yard. If anyone knows what this rock thing is below…please enlighten me!!
I hope you enjoyed reading about this lovely part of the country. And remember – The wonderful thing about Tiggers, is Tiggers are wonderful things!!