Following in the Footsteps of Winnie-the-Pooh in the Ashdown Forest

We'd been meaning to visit the Ashdown Forest for ages and when Sophia found the perfect stick for playing Pooh sticks on another excursion, we made a date to go. Situated between Tunbridge Wells and Haywards Heath, Ashdown Forest is in the High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty about 30 miles south of London.  A medieval hunting forest created soon after the Norman Conquest, it is an area of open heathland and has an extensive history of human occupation from the Bronze Age on.  It was also the centre of the iron industry for both the Romans and the Tudors, and the rich clay soil and redness of rivers and streams belies its ore-rich properties.

Ashdown Forest is also famous as the home of A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin, and the location of the 100 Acre Wood in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.  We went primarily in search of the world famous Pooh Sticks Bridge, but found ourselves picnicking near Eeyore's Gloomy Place and spotting assorted other sites.  We even saw Piglet wandering through the undergrowth near Rabbit and Owl's houses.

Heading north from Maresfield to Hartfield on the B2026, you pass a number of car parks on the heathland, but the Pooh car park is to be found down an unmarked left hand turn (the first left after Piglets car park).  A meandering path takes you down to the bridge, but be sure to wear wellies if it has been raining and stout shoes for the walk are advisable.

At Pooh Sticks Bridge we spotted this branch in the shape of a mermaid sitting near the water.

Remember to collect sticks on your way down the path as there was a distinct scarcity around the bridge itself, although we found lots of great fallen leaf boats to float too.

There is no bench near the bridge, but a few benches on the path down so bring snacks and a flask.  There is plenty to see and do, from mud to squelch through and water to play in, lots of wildlife and tracks to spot, plants to admire and identify, and much more.  It's perfect for dogs as well.

Our girls loved playing in the streams and mud, playing Pooh sticks, identifying tracks and listening to and looking for birds.  We caught glimpses of a woodpecker and various other small birds, spotted dog, horse and fox tracks and more.  It's a beautiful and peaceful place.

On the way back up to the car park, we spotted Piglet in the undergrowth, stopped at Rabbit and Piglet's houses, and tried to knock on Owl's front door high up in a tree.

Our little adventurers crossed log bridges, found a fallen bird's nest, and spotted Jurassic ferns.  We'll definitely be back in the spring to see the new leaves coming and how the undergrowth changes.

Owl's house

We headed back towards Maresfield and stopped at Gill's Lap where we enjoyed the views, walked some more, and enjoyed a rather wrapped up picnic - thank goodness for a trusty Thermos!

Tatiana acquired an impressive collection of small pine cones before we headed off on another walk and then wended our way home.  A lovely day out.

For sustenance, bring a picnic, or head through to Hartfield for the Pooh Corner shop and café, and a couple of nice-looking pubs, or head back to Duddleswell and stop at the pretty tea rooms there, open mid-February to the end of November.

Further reading:

Winnie-the-Pooh: The Complete Collection of Stories and Poems
The Enchanted Places: A Childhood Memoir
The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring the Real Landscapes of the Hundred Acre Wood
OS Explorer Map (135) Ashdown Forest

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