I’m so lucky to live a short distance from the Ashdown Forest; not only is it a beautiful country walk and a certified area of outstanding natural beauty, but it is steeped in literary history: the history of a bear called Winnie-the-Pooh.
Author A.A. Milne lived in the Forest when on country retreat, and would regularly walk with Christopher Robin through the woods where he developed his characters of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, and their habitat. E.H. Shepard took much of his inspiration for his illustrations from the landscapes, and if you take a walk through you can see just how much of an impact the area had on the pair, leading them to share it with the rest of the world. Located just three miles from East Grinstead and approximately 40 from London, this is a must-do for any Winnie-the-Pooh lovers, such as myself. If you haven’t already, take a look at my visit to the Winnie-the-Pooh Exhibition at the V&A Museum – it was fab!
If you aren’t familiar with the area, you should start of at Pooh Corner and Piglet’s Tea Rooms. A quaint little shop offering all sorts of Winnie-the-Pooh gifts and of course afternoon tea – you can also purchase a laminated ‘Pooh Walks’ map from them, have a browse and a cuppa before you set off (the walk is 40 minutes each way) and use the toilet!
I always end up buying something new. I just LOVE a gift shop, especially anything to do with Classic Pooh (much better than Disney). I find items in the shop to be reasonable, considering where it is and how lovely the merchandise is.
From the shop you’d make your way up to the Gills Lap car park – this is quite a walk (over 2 miles one way) so if you have a car this is ideal; and your Pooh walk begins!
A short walk from the car park to Gills Lap (The Enchanted Place), and you will see this commemorative plaque, reminding us of how important the area is to the world.
Unspoiled views and rolling hillsides fill your vision for as far as you can see; you can easily find yourself imagining the characters in their homes. I saw a few people with their Winnie-the-Pooh teddies setting up scenes and photographing them; grown women carrying their Pooh Bears with them as they walk the footsteps of Christopher Robin – it’s a wonderful nostalgic look back at childhood for many.
The Ashdown Forest has so much to explore, you almost feel as though you’ve stepped out of Sussex and into a real ‘Enchanted Place’, as you negotiate your way through bramble and hedgerow.
Pooh Car Park & Pooh Sticks Bridge
The vibe here is truly magical and this feeling is helped as you encounter Warren’s Wren, Eeyore’s Gloomy Place, Piglet’s car park, and Pooh car park, which leads you to the infamous Pooh Bridge.
From the car park, you follow the trail down through the woods to Pooh Bridge – don’t forget to grab your pooh sticks on the way! In fact, so many people visit here each year to throw Pooh Sticks that you’d be pushed to find a decent twig down by the bridge – collect en route for a true winner!
The walk to the Bridge was lovely. Thankfully it wasn’t anywhere near as hot as it has been in the U.K. otherwise I don’t think I’d have made it around quite so quickly. As I mentioned earlier, the walk is around 1.3 miles each way and can take up to 40 minutes so remember to bring plenty of water and take a toilet break beforehand.
Just a couple of feet further up from Pooh Bridge, and it looked as though the hunny-loving bear had been left a little treat behind his front door.
It’s so wonderful to see not just children playing around outside and embracing nature, but actually being able to tangibly interact with the area known so famously to the millions as the world of our homegrown hero, Winnie-the-Pooh. If you’re in the area, this is a must-see.