“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”
And “Big Boots” you’ll need if you want to take an adventure down to the real Hundred Acre Wood!
Yes, you can bounce like Tigger and follow in Piglet’s small footsteps in the charming forest that was the basis for A.A. Milne’s popular Winnie the Pooh stories. Inside the Magic visited England this holiday season and has a guide for all Pooh enthusiasts wishing to explore the magic of Ashdown Forest.
Piglet famously asked Winnie the Pooh; “I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?”, and down in Ashdown Forest in England, the answer begins with an adventure into its distinct landscape seen in the original Pooh stories.
Created by British author A.A. Milne in the 1920s, Winnie the Pooh has become a beloved and treasured character over generations. The first collection of stories about the popular bear was the book Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), and this was followed by The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne also included a poem about Pooh in the children’s verse book When We Were Very Young (1924) and many more in Now We Are Six (1927). All four volumes were illustrated by E. H. Shepard.
In 1961, Walt Disney licensed select film rights of Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories from the estate of A. A. Milne and adapted the Pooh stories into a series of features that would eventually become one of its most successful franchises, earning the studio more than $80 billion. As we previously reported, however, these cherished characters have officially joined the public domain and Disney no longer holds the copyright to the beloved stuffed animals.
Milne based the characters on his son, Christopher Robin, his stuffed animals — Winnie the Pooh and friends Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger—and their country home in England’s Ashdown Forest.
Originally a deer hunting forest in Norman times, Ashdown Forest is now one of the largest free public access spaces in the South East of England. The countryside beauty spot is known the world over as the “home” of Winnie the Pooh, and features many recognizable inspiration spots where A.A. Milne observed the adventures of his son, Christopher Robin.
Inside the Magic ventured to the forest on a recent visit back home to England, and can’t wait to share the magic of this charming part of the U.K.
Christopher Robin said in his autobiography that Ashdown Forest was “identical” to Pooh’s forest from his father’s books, and once we arrived, we could see why.
From the very first glimpse of the enchanting woodland, we felt like we’d been transported into a storybook world, with the famous British fog adding to the mysterious fairytale feeling.
In 1925, A.A. Milne, moved from London to a country home just north of Ashdown Forest at Cotchfield Farm, near Hartfield. Christopher Robin wrote in his book:
“The four of us would pile into a large blue, chauffeur-driven Fiat and travel down every Saturday morning and back again every Monday afternoon. And we would spend a whole glorious month there in the spring and two months in the summer.”
We spent two days in Hartfield, at the quaint 15th Century pub The Anchor Inn. Each of its four rooms is named after a Winnie the Pooh character, with original wooden beams, crooked ceilings, and Pooh wallpaper adding to the charm.
The pub is in the center of the small village of Hartfield, located on the edge of the Ashdown Village. A fantastic starting point for walks and adventure, it was easy to find the entrance to a field to go exploring the several real places in and around the forest that can be matched to locations in the Pooh stories.
The Five Hundred Acre Wood (known as the Hundred Acre Wood, of course) and Gill’s Lap (known as Galleon’s Lap in the stories) are just two examples of how A.A. Milne and E.H. Shephard, who illustrated the books, was so inspired by Ashdown Forest’s distinctive landscape.
Our first adventure in our “Big Boots” (it was seriously muddy this time of year) was to the original Poohsticks Bridge, a footbridge across the River Medway in Posingford Wood.
A 3 mile meander through the fields, woodland, and heathland of the Ashdown Forest – including a jolly footpath through a farm brimming with watchful cows – led us to the exciting discovery of the little wooden footbridge. The bridge is well signposted along the route, but if you want to play a game of Poohsticks we recommend collecting sticks along your walk. There are not many at the bridge itself, and it is frowned upon to pull branches from trees.
The footbridge had to be replaced in 1999, and was funded partially by Disney. The architect used drawings by Shepard in the books as his main source. It is so magical to know you’re playing Poohsticks on the bridge where Christopher Robin himself invented the game all those years ago.
There is a small parking lot called Pooh Car Park located about a 20 to 30 minutes walk from the bridge itself, if you don’t fancy the long loop walk around the forest from Hartfield after a competitive game of Poohsticks!
If you keep your eyes peeled, there are also some surprises in the woodland surrounding the bridge for Winnie the Pooh fans. We missed them initially, but keen adventurers will be rewarded with the lovely discoveries of Winnie the Pooh and Owl’s homes in the forest!
Winnie the Pooh’s house, with Sanders sign and honeypots, can be found about 250 steps from the bridge toward the farm. You’ll need to look up for Owl’s house, located halfway back to the parking lot in a tree on the left as you return.
Our next adventure was to Gill’s Lap, about 5 minutes south of the Pooh Car Park. Galleon’s Leap in the Pooh stories was inspired by the prominent hilltop of Gill’s Lap, while a clump of trees just north of Gill’s Lap became Christopher Robin’s The Enchanted Place, because no-one had ever been able to count whether there were 63 or 64 trees in the circle.
We did not manage to decide if there are 63 or 64 trees in The Enchanted Place, but we did encounter Eeyore’s stick house tucked away behind the trees and the fog in an unassuming manner.
The looped walk from Gill’s Lap parking lot is only about 0.6 miles, but is enveloped in a sense of history that makes the whole walk feel special. Spots on the route include Galleon’s Leap, Roo’s Sandy Pit, and The Heffalump Trap, all augmented by the British foilage, trees and quiet beauty.
Visitors to Ashdown Forest and fans of Winnie the Pooh can also try some delicious treats and themed afternoon tea at Pooh Corner, a cute little tea room and gift shop situated in Hartfield just down from the Anchor Inn.
Unfortunately, Pooh Corner was closed during our stay in the Hundred Acre Wood, but we can’t wait to return one day and try their Pooh shaped sandwiches and amazing cakes.
Our favorite bear turned 95 years old last October, and Disney ensured that they celebrated the big milestone without letting any Woozles or Heffalumps interfere. Guests can enjoy The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, as well as the new Broadway musical created about the characters.
Airbnb’s also designed a wonderful “Bearbnb” especially for the 95th Anniversary of the Hundred Acre Wood pals, situated in Ashdown Forest and hosted by Disney-appointed Winnie the Pooh illustrator, Kim Raymond, who has been drawing the iconic bear for over 30 years.
What Winnie the Pooh location would you like to find in England?