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

Answer me this: What’s surrounded by trees but has no twigs?

You’d be correct of you answered “The footpath to Pooh Bridge in the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England.”

Seriously, park up in Pooh Car Park off Chuck Hatch Lane and follow the pathway about half a mile through some lovely woodland until you reach Pooh Bridge made famous by author A.A. Milne in ‘The House At Pooh Corner.’ and you’ll be lucky to find a single twig.  So if you’re going to play Pooh Sticks, which most people are, take some with you.

Climbing logs en route to Pooh Bridge, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
Things to do on the way

The walk through Ashdown Forest is lovely in any weather.  The path is wide and the views unspoilt by buildings.  You’re likely to see Eeyore’s house en route (or perhaps some children had a go at recreating it – who knows).  At least it was there when I went with my niece and nephew.  Also along the way, there’s an irresistible set of upended logs bored into the ground that compel kids of all ages to walk upon them.  Be careful in wet weather, though, or you could find yourself featuring on one of those “You’ve Been Framed” video blooper compilation programs.  Ouch!

Eeyore's House built with sticks on the way to Pooh Bridge, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
Discovering Eeyore’s House along the way

Once you emerge from the thick of the forest, you’ll see a big field that usually holds some beautiful horses.  Make sure that’s on your left and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

During holiday time, you know when you’re nearing Pooh Bridge because the sound of children’s laughter and the thud of small (and large) feet trotting swiftly from one side to the other will lead you to it.

“There’s mine!”  “Mine must have got stuck” “Yay, I’ve won again” “That’s not your stick, that’s mine”– how many times has the old bridge heard the same dialogue, I wonder?

Children playing Poohsticks on Pooh Bridge in the Ashdown Forest
I Can See My Stick!

At busy times, it’s all you can do to find a spot to hang over the edge, looking down into the water to drop your stick.  There can be a logjam (twigjam?) of people moving back and forth, rushing to see their sticks emerge from under the bridge, meeting those heading in the other direction to line up their next game.

It wasn’t the first time we’d been but every time my young niece, Jemima, and nephew, Elliott, visit me from Scotland and I ask what they’d like to do you can be sure one of the requests will be “Go to Pooh Bridge to play Poohsticks.”  And that suits me.  It’s great exercise, fresh air and a chance to drag them away from their iPads for a few hours.

After being caught out the first time, we always go armed by trawling our own woodland for suitable weapons before setting off.

It’s difficult to guess what kind of stick works best.  Sometimes, an odd shape offers an advantage.  One that looks like an arrow perhaps.  If it lands in the water pointing the right way could it plough through the inevitable debris to its destination?  But if it lands facing backward it’s all over before the game’s begun.  And should you use a light or a weighty twig?  Thick or thin?

According to Dr Rhys Morgan, a Director at the Royal Academy of Engineering, when selecting your stick you need to consider its density, cross-sectional area, buoyancy and drag co-efficiency.  It’s serious stuff for some.  In fact, since 1984, the annual World Pooh Sticks Championships have been held on the River Thames and there are several Pooh Sticks Societies in existence.  Still, most of us just enjoy the fun of trial and error.

The design of Pooh Bridge itself is perfect with its rustic wooden dual rail design affording the little people their own lower rail to lean over or stand on, just as Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet would have done, while the big ones take the top rail.

I’ve seen an odd review posted by a visitor saying that we Brits haven’t made much of the bridge and the surrounding famous Winnie-the-Pooh areas as mentioned in the books, but I think they miss the point.   All these places really do exist in the Ashdown Forest and it’s a great pleasure to see them in their original state.  For me, and I’m certain for many others, it would completely spoil the Pooh books if it were any other way.  The joy of happening upon an “Enchanted Place” and seeing it exactly as described by A.A. Milne is what a visit to Winnie-the-Pooh country is all about.

As you might expect, this bridge isn’t the original that dated from 1907 – that was sold at auction in 2021 for over £131k, smashing its £40-60,000 estimate, but it’s a pretty faithful reproduction.  The current bridge was built with funds partly provided by Disney.  The organisation is, after all, a major beneficiary of the Pooh brand.

If you’re visiting the bridge, you really ought to take a detour to the pretty village of Hartfield just a couple of miles away.  On the main road, you’ll find a shop and tea rooms called “Pooh Corner” that caters for all things Pooh.  It combines a small museum, an eatery with a quaint garden and a treasure-trove of Winnie-the-Pooh related merchandise. If you think the building looks old, that’s because it is.  In fact, it’s the same building that Christopher Robin would visit to buy sweeties with his Nanny – bulls-eyes, naturally.

The staff at Pooh Corner are extremely knowledgeable and helpful and for a small outlay you can purchase a map marked with areas of interest and giving directions.  If you’re unsure how to find the bridge, call in to Pooh Corner first, but I must say we always enjoy a nice cup of tea and a scone after our long walk and games on the bridge.

All-in-all, it’s nice to find an historic place that still appeals to young and old alike.  It gets the kids enjoying the open air and offers a delightful family outing without costing an arm and a leg.

Ashdown Forest Information:  https://www.ashdownforest.com

Pooh Corner Shop & Tea Rooms:  http://www.poohcorner.co.uk

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