Winnie The Pooh Country, Hartfield, Sussex.
But as AA Milne lived and wrote just a few miles away from where I live, and as it was a nice day, neighbour Helen and I decided to visit Hartfield and explore Pooh Country.
Recently I met a German who had never heard of Winnie the Pooh, shock, horror! So for anyone else who has recently returned from a trip to Mars, or who has just moved here from North Korea, here’s a brief outline of Christopher Robin and his friends.
Alan Alexander Milne, a successful playwright, had plays running in London’s West End and New York’s Broadway. He also wrote articles for Punch magazine.
In 1924 he moved his family; wife Daphne, son Christopher Robin, and their Nanny Olive Brockwell from their Chelsea house to Cotchford Farmhouse in Hartfield. But he continued living in Chelsea and commuted home to Sussex at weekends.
Nanny would take Christopher Robin for walks in the countryside, with Christopher riding his pet donkey, Jessica, first calling in the local shop (now Pooh Corner) for some bullseyes. Then they would enter their fantasy world of nursery games with Christopher Robin’s toys, including Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger.
AA Milne added Owl and Rabbit to the group and called them ‘my own unaided addition.’
He used to go for long walks with his son, and the stories developed.
Milne submitted the stories to his publisher, who suggested Ernest Shepard as the illustrator. Milne wasn’t sure about him until Shepard visited Hartfield and the surrounding area, and drew it. AA Milne loved how he had captured the atmosphere, and of course, EH Shepard’s drawings of Pooh, Christopher Robin and their friends have become legendary.
Helen and I stopped on the forest, a few miles outside Hartfield, and walked to Gil’s Lap, which Christopher Robin called Galleon’s Lap.
We passed The Enchanted Place, The Sandy Pit where Roo Played, and came to The Top of the World.
The view is picturesque, right across to Tunbridge Wells.
Helen said that her husband Steve wants his ashes scattered from there, and then she had a practice throw, which was a bit worrying!
Ashdown Forest is a popular place for dog walkers and hikers. But all the people that we passed seemed to be sight-seeing. They weren’t serious hikers and they didn’t have dogs with them.
We drove on to Hartfield. Pooh Corner, the shop where Christopher Robin used to buy his sweets, was in front of us and we turned right into the High Street.
A lot of the buildings that we passed are 5-600 years old.
There was a railway station in Hartfield High Street from 1866-1967. Today the old building is used as a playschool.
Crossing the road, we passed The Anchor pub, walked past a row of lovely white-painted cottages that were obviously Medieval, and reached the Lych Gate Cottage on the left. We walked under the archway and into the grounds of St Mary the Virgin Church.
It dates back to the 13th century, and most of the gravestones are very old and worn.
Back to the High Street, and after a delicious lunch, we walked along to Pooh Corner. Of course we couldn’t possibly visit Hartfield without going in the world-famous shop!
Lauren greeted us and chatted while we sipped our tea in Piglit’s Tearoom garden.
Her uncle started the business 36 years ago, in 1978. Unfortunately he sold it in April, 2013, and died soon afterwards, so he didn’t have time to enjoy his retirement. (Although I’m sure that he’d enjoyed his working life!)
Visitors come to see the shop and explore the area from all over the world, especially Japan, Australia and America.
It’s astonishing what has grown from the stories of a boy, a stuffed bear and his imaginary adventures!
I sipped my tea out of a Royal Doulton cup with Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh playing Poohsticks on Pooh Bridge.
Unfortunately there are only 10 left as Royal Doulton doesn’t make them any more, which seems like one of the most missed opportunities ever! People are always asking if they can buy some.
You can enjoy Kanga’s Crumpets, Piglit’s Cream Tea, Tigger’s Toasties, and much more.
Everything is locally made as the kitchen in Pooh Corner is tiny.
Inside the shop, we wandered from tiny, cramped room to room, all full of Poo-phernalia!
Pooh Bridge is about 20 minutes’ walk from the shop, and after our lunch and tea, we decided that we’d save it for another day as we were so full!
By the way, did you know that Christopher Robin and Pooh played Poohsticks with pine cones to start with?
You can throw that information in at cocktail parties, etc and impress everyone if you run out of conversations!
If you do go to Pooh Bridge I suggest you take your own Pooh Sticks as every stick in a very wide area has been picked and dropped in the river! I’m surprised it hasn’t formed a huge dam after all these years!
Note to self; start a business, running a stall near Pooh Bridge selling Pooh Sticks and cans of drink.
Above the 300-year-old building is Owl’s House, a 3-bedroom self-catering apartment (one bedroom en-suite) with two sitting-rooms, two bathrooms, and use of the garden. It can be rented for holidays, honeymoons, etc.
The shop is open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.