FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF WINNIE-THE-POOH . . . OVER POOHSTICKS
BRIDGE TO OWL'S HOUSE, THE HUNDRED ACRE WOOD AND OTHER ENCHANTED PLACES
IN EAST SUSSEX IMMORTALIZED BY AUTHOR A.A. MILNE
Many of the enchanted spots where Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Rabbit, Piglet,
Owl, Tigger, Kanga, Roo and Christopher Robin found adventure are tucked away
in the English county of East Sussex, about an hour's drive south and slightly
east from London. Poohsticks Bridge, Galleon's Lap, Owl's house, Roo's sandy
pit, the North Pole, the Hundred Acre Wood and the dark and mysterious Forest
can be found amid the villages of Hartfield, Maresfield and Crowborough,
southwest of the larger and better-known town of Tunbridge Wells.
It was there, at Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, that author A.A. Milne and his
family spent their vacations, and there that Milne's son and his stuffed
animals became models for the characters in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories that
have charmed children and adults throughout the world since the first book,
"Winnie-the-Pooh," was published in 1926, followed in 1928 by "The House at
Some places, such as Poohsticks Bridge and the tiny shop where Christopher
Robin Milne and his nanny traveled in search of candy, are well marked and
Finding others requires a good map of the area, Christopher Robin Milne's
autobiography, "The Enchanted Places," and some imagination. But the treasure
that awaits, especially for those who have grown to love Christopher Robin and
his friends, is worth the effort.
West of Tunbridge Wells is the village of Upper Hartfield, the site of
Poohsticks Bridge. A rustic wood sign points the way down a wooded path lined
with dark-green holly bushes and towering oaks.
It's a beautiful walk to the bridge, especially in the late afternoon, when
the sun illuminates shiny holly leaves, while other sections of the path are
dark and mysterious. Some of the bigger trees look as if they'd make perfect
homes for brainy owls and tiny pigs and lovable bears. It's easy to see how a
boy and his Bear could find adventure here.
The footpath leaves the woods and, after several yards, turns to the right
along meadows lined with split-rail fences.
No fences or gates block the way to the bridge, but the surface can be
rutted or muddy and is not suitable for wheelchairs or bicycles.
Anyone who plans to play Poohsticks should gather twigs in the woods,
because none usually can be found at the bridge. Almost everyone who goes to
Poohsticks Bridge does play Poohsticks.
For those who have forgotten, or perhaps never knew, the game of Poohsticks
came about one day when Winnie-the-Pooh accidentally dropped a fir cone -- we
Yanks would call it a pine cone -- from the bridge into the lazy stream
At first Pooh was perplexed by his clumsiness, but then he decided to watch
the water for a while. Soon he was surprised to see his fir cone floating along
on the other side of the bridge.
He may have been a Bear of Very Little Brain, but Pooh realized it would be
fun to drop two or more cones -- or later, sticks -- from the bridge and have a
contest to see which would come out first on the other side.
And so the game of Poohsticks was born, and continues to be played by
countless children and grown-ups. There's something compelling about tossing
sticks over the wooden bridge railing and running to the opposite rail to watch
them emerge, something magical about the place that draws even the stuffiest of
adults into the game. It might be the simplicity of the idea, or the desire to
be a child again, if only for a few moments.
Poohsticks Bridge is a wood structure that looks very much as it does in
Ernest A. Shepard's illustrations for the Milne books, often with a young
child, not unlike Christopher Robin, hanging over the rail, watching for his
stick to float by and shouting with glee when it appears.
The dirt path continues past the bridge to the intersection of two narrow
roads. The right fork leads northeast to Cotchford Farm, where the Milne family
vacationed. To the west and south is Ashdown Forest, known simply as the Forest
in the Pooh books.
North of the farm is the center of the village of Hartfield and a tiny shop
called Pooh Corner, or Christopher Robin's Sweet Shop.
The 300-year-old Queen Anne-style building is at the edge of Hartfield's
High Street, set down a few feet beyond a grassy slope. A Shepard drawing of
Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh over the door leaves no doubt this is the
Visitors to the shop can find bull's-eye candies similar to the ones
Christopher Robin Milne used to buy with his nanny, Alice, as well as hundreds
of Pooh-related books and gifts.
The store is stuffed from floor to rafters with needlework kits, note cards,
pencil cases and other children's gifts, postcards, T-shirts, sweat shirts and
pricey but authentic-looking stuffed versions of Pooh and his friends. Most of
the Poohs here are Shepard's sketchlike designs rather than the more stylized,
red-jacketed Disney version of Pooh that is better-known in the United
States. Pooh lovers, beware: It's easy to lose many pounds -- the monetary kind
-- in this tiny shop.
Among the extensive book selection is "The Enchanted Places," Christopher
Robin Milne's explanation of how his stuffed animals and the places near his
home came to be known and loved worldwide. (Published by Methuen, "The
Enchanted Places" is generally available in English book shops for about $13,
but not in the United States.)
Milne describes the area near Cotchford Farm, the Posington Wood and Ashdown
Forest as "a gay and friendly wood, the sort of wood you could happily walk
through at night, feeling yourself a skillful rather than a brave explorer."
Piglet's beech tree was in the middle of the Forest, and Kanga and Roo liked to
spend quiet afternoons in a sandy part of the Forest down by Galleon's
Although the name is different, no one questions the location of Galleon's
Lap, which A.A. Milne described as "an enchanted place at the very top of the
Forest." Galleon's Lap actually is Gill's Lap, a wooded area at the
intersection of the B2026 and the road from Forest Row.
It was to this comforting spot that 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.
But the Five Hundred Acre Wood (known in the books as the Hundred Acre Wood,
home of Owl's "Chestnuts" is very different from the Forest. "It is a real
forest with giant beech trees, all dark and mysterious," Christopher Milne
writes. "You would indeed need to be a brave explorer to venture into the Five
Hundred Acre at night, and I never did."
Most of the places mentioned in the Pooh books are accessible from public
paths and bridle ways, although some, like the North Pole, are on privately
owned land. (The North Pole, at least as discovered by Pooh and his friends, is
near Gill's Lap, east of the B2110 and across a narrow, shallow
Although the stories of A.A. Milne are its most famous product, England's
Ashdown Forest area does offer more than the world of Christopher
Two vineyards, an outdoor recreation area, a restored steam railway and a
Georgian village all are within a short distance of Poohsticks Bridge and other
At Tunbridge Wells is the Pantiles, a colonnaded walk through elegant shops,
pubs and cafes, at one end of which is the Chalybeate Spring, where
18th-Century royalty went to drink the healing waters. Special events during
the year include several days of Georgian festivities during the summer and
special programs at Easter and Christmas.
Beyond the Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells is a bustling community with a large
shopping mall, many restaurants and shops, and a train station with service to
London and throughout England.
It's fun to mount an "expotition," as Pooh called it, to all the "real," and
the enchanted places. But even a visit to the Pooh Corner shop and Poohsticks
Bridge, the two most easily reached spots, conveys the charm, the tranquillity
and the enchantment of the area as it existed nearly 70 years ago for a little
boy and his Bear.
Land of Pooh
Getting there: You can take a train from London to Tunbridge Wells or to
East Grinstead and rent a car. Or you can rent a car at either London airport
(Gatwick or Heathrow) and drive there. East Sussex, the county where most
Winnie-the-Pooh sites are located, is about an hour's drive from London. From
the airports, take the M25 south to Exit 6, which is the A22, and then continue
south on the A22 to East Grinstead, east on the A264 to the B2026, and then
south on the B2026 to Hartfield.
Poohsticks Bridge: About 300 yards past the center of Hartfield, the road
(Route B2026) bears to the left and south toward Maresfield. About two miles
beyond the fork is a sign for Chuck Hatch, and almost immediately after that
is a well-marked right turn toward Marsh Green and Newbridge. The Poohsticks
Bridge parking lot -- or car park, as the locals say -- is about 150 yards
farther down the road.
For more information: The Ashdown Forest Information Centre, one mile east
of Wych Cross off the A22, provides information about activities and facilities
in the forest. (The Centre is open weekends and bank holidays 11 a.m. to 5
p.m., and weekdays April 1 - September 30 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
Ordnance survey maps, available in hiking shops and bookstores in England,
are invaluable for touring Pooh country. (You'll want Pathfinder No. 1269 for
the Uckfield and Heathfield area, and No. 1248 for the Tunbridge Wells
For general information, contact the British Tourist Authority, 551 Fifth
Ave., Suite 701, New York, N.Y. 10176, telephone (800) 462-2748.