Hartfield, Sussex, where Winnie the Pooh was Born

By Lyn Funnell

I was never a fan of the stories of Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh and his friends, although I loved the drawings and the toys.
But as AA Milne lived and wrote just a few miles away from where I live, and as it was a nice day, my friend and I decided to visit Hartfield and explore Pooh Country.
For anyone who has recently returned from Mars and hasn’t heard of Winnie the Pooh, here’s a brief history of Christopher Robin and his friends.
Alan Alexander Milne was a successful playwright. He 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.

100 Acre Wood

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.
Later, 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 at weekends, 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 sketches of 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.

View towards Tunbridge Wells

My friend and I parked 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.
My friend said that her husband 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 returned to the car and 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 five and six centuries 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 an 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 eroded by years of English weather.
Back to the High Street, and we walked along to Pooh Corner. Of course we couldn’t possibly visit Hartfield without going in the world-famous shop!

Mike Ridley started the shop in 1978. He sold it in April, 2013 and died soon afterwards.
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 and developed from the stories of a boy, a stuffed bear and his imaginary adventures!
Inside the shop, we wandered through tiny, cramped rooms, all full of Poo-phernalia!
Pooh Bridge is about 20 minutes’ walk from the shop, but we decided that we’d save it for another day as our feet were beginning to ache.

See Maria’s article;

Winnie-the-Pooh Fans Can Play Pooh Sticks on Pooh Bridge, Sussex

By the way, did you know that Christopher Robin and Pooh played Poohsticks with pine cones to start with?
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!

Author

  • Lyn Funnell

    Lyn is the co-owner of Unknown Kent and Sussex. She lives in Sussex. Lyn has been writing for most of her life, both Fiction & Non-Fiction. She loves cookery & creating original recipes. She's won a lot of prizes, including Good Housekeeping Millenium Menu & on BBC The One Show as a runner-up, making her Britain's Spag Bol Queen! She has had nine books published so far. History, Travel & Restaurant Reviews are her main interests.

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