How would you like to go on a Winnie-the-Pooh hunt in the Ashdown Forest? Pooh’s adventures with Christopher Robin, Piglet and Eeyore are some of the world’s favourite children’s stories. You’ve got to love a bear of very little brain who is rather too fond of honey. A bear who goes hunting for woozles and heffalumps and always stops at eleven in the morning for “a little something”.
A.A.Milne, the author of the Pooh books, lived near the village of Hartfield in East Sussex on the edge of the Ashdown Forest and based the Hundred Acre Wood on real places in the forest. E.H.Shepard based the books’ illustrations on actual places there.
Ninety years after the publication of the first book, you can still go on your very own Winnie-the-Pooh expedition to the Ashdown Forest. The gorse bushes that Pooh flies so gracefully into at the beginning of the book are there. You can find the pine trees that Tigger tried to climb or the beech tree where Owl lived. You can play Poohsticks on the very same bridge as Pooh and Piglet, go on an expotition to the North Pole and try to count the trees in the Enchanting Place at the top of the forest.
Let me show you how to find Winnie-the-Pooh in the Ashdown Forest.
How to get to the Poohsticks Bridge
Drive through the village of Hartfield and turn left at the signpost towards the B2026 and Maresfield. This is the road that goes through the Ashdown Forest. After a mile and a half you’ll come to Chuck Hatch. Turn right at the sign for Marsh Green and Newbridge. The Pooh Car Park is a bit further down on your right.
Follow the path out of the car park into the woods. It’s a relatively easy walk and you’ll pass tree stumps to climb and play on along the way. It’s best to start gathering fallen sticks to use as Poohsticks while you walk – there’s far more here than there are once you get to the bridge.
About half way down on your right, see if you can find Owl’s House high up in the branches of one of the trees. Look carefully and you might be able to read Owl’s instructions on the door. Further down, you’ll find lots of sticks which are perfect for building dens if you want to spend longer here either on the way there or on the way back.
You’ll reach the bridge after about 15 minutes. This is where Christopher Robin first played pooh sticks with his father, and it’s later described in The House at Pooh Corner when Pooh plays the game with Christopher Robin, Tigger and Eeyore.
To play, all you have to do is drop your stick into the water from one side of the bridge, run to the other side and see whose stick comes under the bridge first. It’s simple but addictive.
Just across the bridge there used to be a dead tree with a little wooden door with brass hinges hidden at the bottom of the trunk. There was even a Pooh wedged firmly inside with a couple of pots of honey and letters from fans. Unfortunately the tree has now been taken down along with the little door. I do hope that one day this will return to the same spot – it made the trip to the Pooh Bridge so much more special.
The circular walk around Pooh’s Enchanting Spots
The second Winnie-the-Pooh walk in the Ashdown Forest is one of our favourites and takes about an hour and a half if you stop to admire all the Pooh sites along the way. We always take a picnic to have in the forest.
From the Poohsticks Bridge, drive back onto the B2026 towards Maresfield and after about three minutes you’ll come to a car park called Gill’s Lap on your right.
Walk into the forest, keeping the road on your right. Walk past the pine trees and along the grassy track. There are fantastic views over the forest from here and various benches to sit on and admire the view. Keep walking until you reach the tall group of pine trees on your right. This is Gill’s Lap, called Galleon’s Lap in the Pooh books.
“They walked on, thinking of This and That, and by-and-by they came to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest called Galleon’s Lap, which is sixty-something trees in a circle; and Christopher Robin knew that it was enchanted because nobody had ever been able to count whether it was sixty-three or sixty-four, not even when he tied a piece of string round each tree after he had counted it.”
The House at Pooh Corner – A.A.Milne
In his book, The Enchanted Places, Christopher Milne, the original Christopher Robin, describes how he could see Gill’s Lap from his nursery window. He describes it as “an enchanted spot before ever Pooh came along to add to its magic.” It still looks exactly like it does in Shepard’s illustration.
Just outside Gill’s Lap you can see a concrete pillar. This is a Trig Point, an Ordnance Survey triangulation stone. These can be found on high ground all over the UK and used to be used for the metrical survey of Britain.
After you’ve had a go at counting the trees, walk to the bench outside Gill’s Lap and in front of you you’ll see a little path going through the gorse. Follow the track and you’ll come to what looks very much like The Heffalump Trap. The path dips down into a hollowed out area around a pine tree, very similar to where Pooh tried to trap the Heffalump, after suspecting that they’re after his pots of honey.
“Pooh’s first idea was that they should dig a Very Deep Pit, and that the Heffalump would come along and fall into the Pit . . . Pooh rubbed his nose with his paw, and said that the Heffalump might be walking along, humming a little song, and looking up at the sky, wondering if it would rain, and so he wouldn’t see the Very Deep Pit until he was halfway down, when it would be too late.”
Winnie-the-Pooh – A.A.Milne
This makes a good spot for a picnic – provided you don’t bring honey sandwiches which might attract those pesky heffalumps…
Walk back up the track towards Gill’s Lap and turn left along the original path. As the path starts to slope downwards you’ll come to a spot with a marvellous view over the forest and a large memorial stone dedicated to A.A. Milne and E.H.Shepard, who illustrated the Pooh books. The stone describes how they “captured the magic of Ashdown Forest and gave it to the world.” This is The Enchanted Place and was especially chosen by Christopher Robin Milne to commemorate Winnie the Pooh’s connection with the Ashdown Forest.
Go back up the path. Just before Gill’s Lap on your left you’ll see a disused sandstone quarry. This is Roo’s Sandy Pit. Walk around the edge, keeping the quarry on your left and you’ll reach a path leading to the main road. You’ll see a sign with Quarry on it. Cross over the road and turn left onto a grassy track. The track curves to the right and in front of you you’ll see the open heathland of the forest.
Follow the path to the bottom of the hill. You’re now on Pooh’s Expotition to the North Pole. The North Pole is hidden among the trees where the two sides of the valley meet. Just before you reach the bridge at the bottom, turn left and walk alongside the stream. After about 45 metres you’ll reach an area with a series of small waterfalls and little ponds. It was somewhere just like this where Roo fell into the water during Christopher Robin’s expotition to the North Pole. Pooh and Kanga saved him by fishing him out with a pole and Christopher Robin declares this pole to be the North Pole.
Now walk back to the bridge, cross it and walk up the steep hill. This is the hardest part of the walk as it’s a bit of a slog all the way to the top. This is quite a popular riding trail so watch out for horse riders coming towards you. Once you reach the top the path turns to the right and it’s a nice easy walk from here on.
We often stop here for a picnic. There are lots of lone pine trees dotted across the heath. It’s fun to see if you can find Tigger’s Tree, the tree that Tigger fell out of when he was trying to prove that Tiggers can climb trees “Much better than Poohs”. Look at Shepard’s drawings of Winnie-the-Pooh in the Ashdown Forest and you’ll see that it’s remarkable how similar the landscape still looks, 90 years later.
As you walk, look across to your right and you’ll see Gill’s Lap where you started off. The path eventually veers to the right and wends its way back towards the road which, when you cross it, will bring you back to the car park where you started.
Now, if you’re anything like Pooh and Piglet you’ll be needing “a little smackerel of something” so you should drive back into Hartfield and head for Pooh Corner. This little shop sells the largest selection of Pooh products anywhere in the world including maps and walks around the various Winnie the Pooh sights in the forest. The tea room is an excellent place for toast and honey, a crumpet or a clotted cream tea. The garden is a good spot on a sunny day and we can thoroughly recommend Piglet’s Cream Tea, a pot of tea with a scone, clotted cream and jam for a very reasonable £4.
And remember: “in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”
Have you found Winnie-the-Pooh in the Ashdown Forest?
Did you know that you can see the real Winnie-the-Pooh bear in New York? Find out where to find Edward Bear by reading my guide to visiting New York with children.
For more ideas and inspiration for following in the footsteps of your favourite literary characters, take a look at The Harry Potter Guide to London, Where to Find the Ten Best Harry Potter Locations in the UK and On the Trail of Harry Potter in Lacock.
For more inspiration on exploring Sussex, take a look at How to Explore Sussex with Kids.