Queen Elizabeth isn’t the only British icon to turn 90 years old this year. The beloved honey-loving bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, was also born in 1926.
And with October 14 marking the 90th anniversary of the first publication of A.A. Milne’s first Winnie-the-Pooh children’s classic, you need no better excuse to head to East Sussex than a visit to Ashdown Forest (aka the Hundred Acre Wood to Pooh and friends!).
One of the south east’s best-kept secrets, wander the 6,500 acres of heathland and atmospheric woodlands that inspired A.A. Milne’s classic stories and discover the real places beautifully captured in the books by illustrator E.H. Shepard.
In fact, the streams, sandy plateaux, vistas and valleys are so familiar from the illustrations, that wandering in Ashdown Forest feels like walking through the pages of the Pooh books, transporting you back to the magic of childhood.
Ashdown Forest, both comforting and wild, is a fantastic place for a family walk. It’s the sort of place where, in the words of A.A. Milne “when you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen”.
There are two downloadable Pooh walks (0.6 miles and 2 miles) which highlight the main Winnie-the-Pooh sites of interest. They follow the footsteps of A.A. Milne from Gills Lap (Galleon’s Lap in the books) at the heart of the forest.
Pass ‘The Enchanted Place’, the highest spot in Ashdown Forest. See, as Christopher Robin did, “the whole world spread out until it reached the sky” – the view can hardly have changed in 100 years. Not far from here, on a narrow path through bracken and gorse, is a discreet bronze plaque, a memorial to Milne and Shepard’s unique collaboration. It’s deliberately unmarked; the fun is discovering it on your own.
Discover too the site of the celebrated ‘Heffalump Trap’ where Pooh dreamed up a Heffalump stealing his ‘hunny’ before he realised that he had eaten it himself all along… There’s also an old quarry that was ‘Roo’s Sandy Pit’ where Roo learned how to do hops.
From here, the longer walk crosses the B2026 and follows the winding route pioneered by Christopher Robin in his quest to discover the ‘North Pole’. Somewhere to the right of this whimsical landmark is ‘Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place’, where Eeyore lost his house. As you walk, remember to collect some sticks, ready to try your hand at Christopher Robin’s favourite pastime – Poohsticks (there are surprising few by the actual bridge!).
Poohsticks Bridge is located south of the well-preserved village of Hartfield. One of the most iconic yet humble of bridges in the world, it nestles over a stream and has been rebuilt to look like Shepard’s original sketch.
If you fancy a longer (7 mile) circular walk to include the real-life Five Hundred Acre Wood (Pooh’s ‘100 Aker Wood’), and culminating in a crossing of the famous Poohsticks Bridge, click here.
If you’re feeling peckish after your ‘expotition’, head for the picturesque village of Hartfield, home to Piglet’s Tearoom and Garden and treat yourself to a cream tea and a slice of cake.
Where to stay
If you are planning to include a Winnie-the-Pooh pilgrimage on your next cottage holiday, why not take a look at our selection of holiday cottages in Kent and Sussex? Our Ashdown Forest Walks are within easy reach of our holiday cottages at Beechcroft, The Granary, and 1 School House Cottages. Check out our ‘Things to Do’ section for each property listing for more great ideas for days out during your stay.