Pooh Country, East Sussex

If you are looking to while away a few hours on a lovely day, why not consider straying into a bit of childhood nostalgia and discover the origins of Winnie-the-Pooh. Concealed amidst the Sussex countryside is the Birthplace of this infamous bear and his extraordinary adventures. It all began in 1924 when the Milne family moved from a townhouse in Chelsea, to an old farmhouse in Hartfield.

As a young boy, Christopher Robin Milne had a collection of stuffed toys, which became involved in his nursery games and outdoor adventures. On his move to the country, Christopher created his own world among the woodland areas and open heathland of Ashdown Forest - but always accompanied by his 'imaginary friends'. Together with his nanny, Christopher introduced his small army of animal friends to their new surroundings, spending many happy hours walking and playing games in this place so different from the bustling environs of South West London.

Nanny Olive Brockwell would enthuse about young Christopher's exploits to his parents. His father, A A Milne, liked to go walking in the countryside and he soon became familiar with the magical places named by Christopher. As a writer, it wasn't long before he had formulated the idea of publishing stories based on his son's adventures, and starring all the animal characters. Nearly nine decades later, children all over the world are still spellbound by the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh, Eyeore, Tigger, Piglet and Roo, which were brought to life by the superb illustrations of E H Shepard.

A perfect place to start the adventure is in the village of Hartfield, Sussex, with a visit to Pooh Corner - a shop created by Mike Ridley in 1978, and dedicated to everything 'Pooh'. From this point on, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction as everything is so believable. The shop itself is the same one visited by Christopher and his nanny every week to buy Bullseyes, and Mike actually met Christopher on several occasions. Do remember to pick up a map of the area because you are about to embark on an 'expotition' of Pooh Country.

After a short walk, you will arrive at The Enchanted Places, on high ground within Ashdown Forest. At this delightful location, a memorial plaque was placed in 1979 commemorating the lives of A A Milne and E H Shepard. Other infamous spots in the area include Galleon's Lap, Roo's Sandypit, The Hundred Acre Wood, and the site of The North Pole. Heading back to Hartfield, you will arrive at Poohsticks Bridge (pictured), which crosses the little stream beside which stood the Milne's old farmhouse. Standing on this rustic wooden bridge, you cannot help but be tempted to pick up some sticks and indulge yourself in a favourite pastime of Christopher Robin and his father. Finally, back at Pooh Corner, why not stay a while and take some excellent refreshment in Piglit's Tea Room.

Even today, the forest and surrounding countryside seem quite 'magical' and it really does not take much to visualise a happy little band of creatures engaging in all sorts of childish mischief. A A Milne certainly created some of the most appealing children's books, not only of his time, but of all time. The pleasure in being able to be part of that familiar experience for a few hours is amazing, whatever your age!


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