Ashdown Forest

Christopher Robin and Pooh play Poohsticks

Many of the enchanted spots where Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin found adventure are tucked away in East Sussex, about an hour's drive south and slightly east from London. Poohsticks Bridge, Galleon's Lap, Roo's Sandpit, the North Pole, the Hundred Acre Wood and the dark and mysterious Forest can be found in the area of Ashdown Forest. It was there, at Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, that Milne's son and his stuffed animals became models for the characters in the Winnie the Pooh stories.

Ashdown Forest is much the same today as when Ernest Shepard first sketched it over seventy years ago. Some places, such as Cotchford Farm, Poohsticks Bridge and the tiny shop where Christopher Robin and his nanny travelled in search of candy, are well marked and easily accessible (although some, like the North Pole, are on privately owned land). Finding others areas requires a good map of the area, Christopher Robin Milne's autobiography 'The Enchanted Places', and some imagination.

Photo of Poohsticks Bridge

The candy shop for example can be found in the center of the village of Hartfield and is now a shop, called 'Pooh Corner', where you can buy a wide variety of Pooh items. Poohsticks Bridge (the place where Pooh invented 'Poohsticks') can be found in the village of Upper Hartfield, on the Westside of Tunbridge Wells. Posingford Bridge, as it was originally called, was built in 1907 by John Charles Osman and his team of thirteen workers, so timber could be carried from Posingford to Cotchford Lane. In the late 1970s it became obvious that Poohsticks Bridge was in need of urgent repair, so sufficient funds were raised to restore the bridge and it was officially reopened by Christopher Milne in May 1979.

1979 was also Ernest Shepard's centenary year and, in July, a special game of Poohsticks was held on the bridge to celebrate both the centenary and the issue of a GPO stamp featuring Winnie the Pooh. Later that year, a bronze plaque was set into a rock in an obscure pathway near the summit of Gills Lap, the highest point of the Ashdown Forest which overlooks all the Pooh places, commemorating the creation of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard. There are deliberately no signs to show the way, as it was felt that in keeping with the spirit of the books, the memorial should be informal and inconspicuous. Gills Lap (Galleon's Lap) is also the spot where Christopher Robin and Pooh went in the last chapter of 'The House at Pooh Corner', when they both knew their lives were about to change as Christopher got older.

A few years earlier, Christopher Milne recruited Pooh to help in the campaign for the survival of Ashdown Forest, which was then being threatened by the proposed ravages of a major exploration by British Petroleum. It was intolerable for Christopher that such wild, wooded English countryside, once the hunting ground of Kings, should come under the threat of so-called 'progress and development.' Happily, the 100 Acre Wood was saved for posterity.

Modern photograph of Poohsticks Bridge

At the end of 1999 Pooh's favorite bridge was forced to be closed after the wear and tear caused by thousands of visitors. In October till December that year the bridge was rebuilt at a cost of 46,000 pounds ($76,000) with the help of a 15,000 pounds donation from Walt Disney.

View this map to discover how you can visit Ashdown Forest.

Planning to visit Ashdown Forest? Read more about holidays in East Grinstead, a town situated the outskirts of Ashdown Forest.