“Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, where Christopher Robin plays. You’ll find the enchanted neighbourhood, of Christopher’s childhood days.”
Located 30 miles south of London and nestled in heart of the Ashdown Forest is a truly magical place that has a rather special association with a much-loved literary figure. In 1925, Alan Milne or A.A. Milne as he is famously known, bought a country home, about a mile north of the forest at Cotchford Farm, near the village of Hartfield. It was here, over many weekend trips, and Spring and Summer holiday’s that Milne found the inspiration, and indeed setting for the Winnie The Pooh stories.
Milne’s son, Christopher Milne (the inspiration for the Christopher Robin character in the books) recalls the easy walk from their country house to the ancient forest entrance where they would walk “in single file threading the narrow paths that run through the heather”. So many of the locations in the books actually exist and with the handy map that you can pick up at the Pooh Corner Shop in Hartfield, you too can explore them!
Now it’s up to you whether you go to the shop before or after the walk – we’ve always gone first, and, especially if you’re a first-timer, its pretty imperative that you pick up the map so you can visit the areas of interest, as they are split up over two main locations.
The shop itself was opened in 1978 by Mike Ridley, and is an Aladdin’s cave of everything Pooh related; Books, Toys, Ceramics, Art, Stationery – even Honey! You could be lost in here for hours, as it feels like a home from home, and if you’ve got the kids with you, you’ll find it particularly hard to leave! There’s even Piglet’s Tearoom and garden, offering a selection of “Smackerals”, “Tigger’s Treats”, “100 Aker Cakes”, “Whatnots And Etcetera’s” & “Strengthening Medicines”.
Mike has since sold the business, but new owner, Julie Ashby has continued the traditions and spirit he left behind.
When you’re done with your refreshments and purchasing needs, make sure you pick up the ‘Pooh Country Expotition‘ map at the till, which includes key locations for you to check off as you find them.
You’re now ready for the walk, and, as mentioned, it’s split up over two locations. The first of these will start at Piglet’s Car Park – the nearest postcode which should get you there is TN7 4WW – bear in mind this will take you close to a private property, just stick to the heathland side of the road and look for the sign that clearly states ‘Piglet’s Car Park‘.
The start of the walk is a short incline through a path with gorse bushes either side. If you go in April, as we did, you’ll smell the coconut aromas that the flowers produce. As you get to the top, you’ll see a path that goes left and right – go left and carry on up the hill until you reach the pines on the right-hand side.
This is the first stop and it’s called ‘The Enchanted Place‘ – here you’ll fine a secluded area covered with pines and a stunning lookout over East Sussex. This is also the location of the A.A Milne and E.H Shepard memorial plaque, which reads:
“Here at Gill’s Lap are commemorated A. A. Milne 1882-1956 and E.H. Shepard 1879-1976 who collaborated in the creation of “Winnie-the-Pooh” and so captured the magic of Ashdown Forest and gave it to the world”
As you leave the enchanted place (and after you’ve taken a few selfies) carry on up the hill and to the left you’ll see ‘Roo’s Sandy Pit‘, which is now more of a bog, overgrown with long grass. You can still climb down and check it out though and you can cross it off you ‘Expotition’ map checklist.
The final area of interest, as you continue further up the hill, is ‘Galleon’s Lap‘ – the original location of the Enchanted Place mentioned at the end of The House At Pooh Corner:
“Being enchanted, it’s floor was not like the floor of the Forest, gorse and bracken and heather, but close-set grass, quiet and smooth and green. It was the only place in the Forest where you could sit down carelessly, without getting up again almost at once and looking for somewhere else. Siting there they could see the whole world spread out until it reached the sky, and whatever there was all around the world over was with them in Galleons Lap.”
– The House At Pooh Corner; A.A Milne
Now, technically, you can walk all the way down to the next location – just as Christopher Milne used to when he was a child – but for those with cars, you now need to head back to Piglet’s car park and head back down the hill until you reach a signpost that says ‘Marsh Green and Newbridge’. Take a left turn and carry on until you see the sign for ‘Pooh Car Park‘. Park up and you’re ready for the concluding walk.
This walk will take you down to the famous ‘Poohsticks Bridge‘, so make sure you collect enough sticks along the way as they are not in plentiful supplies when you reach the bridge itself. As you leave the car park, follow the wooden posts with ‘Pooh Bridge’ written on them. It’s all downhill but you pass some beautiful spots along the way that could very well be the home of Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit or Owl. To our right, as we were walking downhill, we noticed a wooden A-frame house which we liked to think belonged to Eeyore.
As the path starts to level out at the bottom, you’ll see a bridge – this is NOT the Poohsticks bridge 🙂 – I’m sure there are many tourists that get as far as this point and then head back! Go over the bridge and keep following the path round and you’ll have a field on your left and the woodland on your right. Keep going down the patch and you’ll come to the Poohsticks Bridge!
It’s a beautiful, almost tranquil spot, with the gentle sounds of trickling water and the birdlife twittering away above you. You’ll also be glad you didn’t stop at the first bridge, as this one is far more majestic and so obviously THE Poohsticks Bridge!
Pooh Corner Shop’s original owner, Mike Ridley, published the official rules for Poohsticks:
- You each select a stick and show it to your fellow competitors. You must agree which stick is which – or whose, as it were.
- Check which way the stream is flowing. Competitors need to face the team on the side where it runs in, under the bridge (facing upstream). Note: if the stream runs out, from under the bridge, you are standing on the wrong side! (downstream).
- Choose someone to be a ‘Starter’. This can be either the oldest or the youngest competitor.
- All the competitors stand side by side facing upstream.
- Each competitor holds their stick at arms length over the stream. The tall competitors should lower their arms to bring all the sticks to the same height, over the steam, as the shortest competitor’s stick.
- The starter calls, “Ready – Steady – Go!” and all the competitors drop their sticks. Note: the stick must not be thrown into the water.
- At this point in the game all the players must cross to the downstream side of the bridge. Please take care – young players like to race across. Remember, other people use bridges and some of them have vehicles or horses.
- Look over the edge of the bridge for the sticks to emerge. The owner of the first stick to float from under the bridge, is declared the winner.
Traditionally, this is the end of the walk, but as a little extra, if you actually carry on walking over the bridge and up the hill on the other side, you’ll see a farm on your right-hand side. This isn’t any farm, however, it is Cotchford Farm – the very same farm that A.A Milne bought back in 1925.
For a truly enjoyable day out with the kids, or even by yourself or with a partner, make sure you find some time to do the walk. You can never be too old to enjoy the magic of A.A Milne’s world and the best part is that it’s a real world that anyone can explore for themselves!
Pooh Corner Shop, High Street, Hartfield; East Sussex, TN7 4AE · Telephone: 01892 770456
Pooh Car Park, Chuck Hatch Lane; Chuck Hatch; East Sussex, TN7 4EX
Piglet’s Car Park, Chuck Hatch Road; Chuck Hatch; East Sussex, TN7 4WW