Ashdown Forest..Home to Pooh and friends.
The worldwide popularity of A.A. Milne’s books continues to draw visitors to the forest, but thankfully the setting remains an unspoiled escape for walking, camping and dropping sticks into the stream off that famous bridge
Even in midsummer there are rarely traffic jams or long queues , despite the forest’s proximity to London and a long association with former resident A.A. Milne and a certain bear of little brain. As Christopher Robin Milne would write in his memoir, this was “an enchanted spot before ever Pooh came along to add to its magic”.
Covering almost 2,430 hectares, Ashdown Forest, in the High Weald area of outstanding natural beauty, is actually more heath than woodland, a landscape now rarer than tropical rainforest. Undulating sandstone ridgetops of gorse, heather and fern dominate, peppered with woodlands and bordering the mile-long Weir Wood reservoir. This is an ancient place, having escaped cultivation since Norman times, when it was set aside as a royal hunting ground.
But while A.A.Milne and his timeless creations are the main draw for the forest’s overseas visitors, locations associated with the books remain low-key and unspoiled. Galleon’s Leap (Gills Lap) and the Enchanted Place have only modest signage and a plaque to A.A.Milne and the illustrator of the books, EH Shepard. Visiting the Pooh Sticks Bridge near Chuck Hatch, you can take the 15-minute walk down a sandy path from the car park to find that while the unassuming wooden bridge was rebuilt 20 years ago, it still looks as it did in E.H. Shepard’s illustrations. Its enchantment has not been killed off by gaudy signs and shopping arcades but lives on through ritual and imagination as – 100 years on – children clutching their own Eeyores, Poohs and Piglets gather sticks, drop them in the water, race to the other side of the bridge and argue over who actually won.
For lots more information about the history, walks and trails through the forest look up ashdownforest.org