Through copse and spinney marched Bear; down open slopes of gorse and heather, over rocky beds of streams, up steep banks of sandstone into the heather again; and so at last, tired and hungry, to the Hundred Acre Wood.
So writes author AA Milne in Eeyore Loses A Tail, one of his many stories about Winnie the Pooh and friends. The landscape is instantly recognisable to anyone who knows the Ashdown Forest, the slice of East Sussex where Milne wrote and based the books. Almost a century since the publication of Winnie the Pooh's first adventures, the gorse and heather-strewn landscape has barely changed, and many of Milne's landmarks remain, still recognisable as the homes of various woodland creatures.
Known affectionately as 'Pooh Country' or 'Winnie the Pooh Forest', the Ashdown Forest draws visitors from all over the globe each year, all keen to follow in the footsteps of the world famous bear.
AA Milne's links to the area began when he bought Cotchford Farm as a country home in 1925. The farmhouse is still standing today on the outskirts of the village of Hartfield, albeit privately owned and situated on a private lane — so don't go hunting it out as part of your 'expotition'.
Milne wrote all of his Winnie the Pooh books there, inspired by his explorations of the forest with his son, Christopher Robin, and he died at Cotchford Farm in 1956 (bonus fact: Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones drowned in Cotchford Farm's swimming pool in 1969).
So important was the landscape in which Milne set his tales, that he brought EH Shepard to the area to capture it in his illustrations for the books. The iconic map of Hundred Acre Wood is based on the Ashdown Forest — though don't try using it to navigate to the landmarks today. Whimsical it may be, but its geographical accuracy leaves a lot to be desired.
Winnie the Pooh landmarks in the Ashdown Forest
Pooh Sticks Bridge
Which Winnie the Pooh landmarks can be found in Pooh Country today? The best-known is Pooh Sticks Bridge (originally called Posingford Bridge), located over a stream in a wooded area, a few minutes walk north of Pooh Car Park. The original bridge is long gone, and due to public interest, a replacement was built in the 1970s, officially named Pooh Sticks Bridge, and opened by the real Christopher Robin. So popular was it with visitors, that it needed some repair work by the late 1990s, with Disney contributing to the costs.
The route from Pooh Car Park on Chuck Hatch Lane to Pooh Sticks Bridge is well signposted, via a wide path through the woods, largely gravel, though it can get muddy in places. As you head down the hill, keep your eyes high in the trees on the right and you might spot Owl's house.
A couple more minutes walking takes you to the bridge itself. Other than the discreet signs explaining the rules of Pooh Sticks, it looks like any other wooden bridge over any other stream in the English countryside. Consider taking some of your own sticks to avoid damaging the forest, and as Pooh himself said, "always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the forest that was left out by mistake."
Once you've played a few rounds of Pooh Sticks, continue across the bridge and follow the footpath uphill. After a couple of hundred metres, a gap in the hedge on the left opens up to reveal Winnie the Pooh's house, complete with 'Mr Sanderz' sign, and pots of 'hunny' left as gifts by previous visitors.
From here, if you're feeling strong you can continue your walk towards Pooh Corner in Hartfield (more on which below) or turn back towards Pooh car park to explore the rest of the forest.
Other Winnie the Pooh landmarks can be found about 1km further south — either take a walk through the forest, but be warned it's hilly, or drive down Chuck Hatch Road, which dissects Pooh Country, and park up in one of the other car parks (Piglet's, Quarry and Gills Lap are closest to the landmarks). Maps tend to vary on the exact location of some of the landmarks, but we found Footpath Map to be fairly accurate.
AA Milne Memorial
The AA Milne and EH Shepard memorial is the most obvious Pooh landmark in this area. Situated in a small clearing at the top of the hill, just a couple of minutes' walk from both the Piglet's and Quarry car parks, a large stone is topped with a plaque dedicated to both the author and his illustrator, EH Shepard. Scenes from 2017 film Goodbye Christopher Robin were filmed here, and the views across the forest are spectacular.
Heffalump Trap and Lone Pine Tree
From here, continue along the main footpath and branch right to visit the Heffalump Trap and Lone Pine Tree, located on a cliff edge with more of those spectacular views.
At least, it's what's generally believed to be the Heffalump Trap — even official Ashdown Forest leaflets admit that no-one knows for sure where exactly some of Milne's landmarks are these days, which can make it tricky to track some of them down.
The Enchanted Place/Galleons Lap
No heffalumps have been trapped on our visit though, so we wander back to the main track and branch left towards a clump of tall pine trees. It's officially called Gills Lap but was given the name Galleons Lap by Milne, and known to Pooh and friends as The Enchanted Place, due to the fact that nobody knows if there are 63 or 64 trees there.
We've never counted ourselves, but it's something to keep the kids busy for a few minutes while you have a rest and enjoy the scenery.
Roo's Sandy Pit
Roo's Sandy Pit is nearby too — it's the old quarry which gives the Quarry Car Park its name, and being sunk into the ground, isn't all that accessible to anyone on an 'expotition'.
The North Pole and Eeyore's Gloomy Place
The final stops on the Winnie the Pooh tour of the Ashdown Forest are on the other side of Chuck Hatch Road, towards the area called Five Hundred Acre Wood, which no doubt inspired Milne's own Hundred Acre Wood. Take the footpath almost opposite Quarry car park and bear right through the woodland until you reach a bridge at the bottom of the valley, which was Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin's North Pole. Eeyore's Sad and Gloomy Place is nearby too but again, exact locations are hazy — even the adult Christopher Robin couldn't be sure where it was.
Despite the obvious tourism benefits that would arise from making a bigger deal of the forest's famous fictional resident, visitors are left in no doubt that this is the world of AA Milne and EH Shepard's Pooh, rather than the later, Disneyfied version. It remains a forest rather than a theme park, with the landmarks left in completely natural environment, the only clue to their significance being the occasional wooden signpost. Though the lack of directions can be frustrating for tourists on the Pooh trail, it's an understandable and admirable decision by those managing the forest.
Pooh Corner, Hartfield
That said, there is one place where Pooh fans can really go nuts — Pooh Corner. Located inside a cottage in the village of Hartfield, Pooh Corner is a tea room, shop and small museum dedicated to all things Winnie the Pooh.
Rumbly in your tumbly? Tuck into sandwiches, cakes, or Pooh Bear shaped toast, and drink tea from a Pooh teapot, either inside in the tea room, or outdoors in the garden, before visiting the small museum and gift shop. Posters and prints of all versions of Winnie and friends line the walls, the museum tells the Pooh story, and cuddly toys, keyrings, books and other souvenirs are available to buy.
From Pooh Corner, a walking route to Pooh Bridge is signposted, but from our experience, it's one for the more intrepid walkers, and certainly not one for families with young children in tow.
Heading south-west from the village centre along Newtons Hill, the route then joins a somewhat overgrown (and in August of the extremely wet summer of 2021, very muddy) footpath around the back of some houses, before crossing a field on quite a steep hill downwards.
A couple more fields, a private lane and another footpath later brings you to the bridge. Allow at least 45 minutes walking time each way between Pooh Corner and Pooh Bridge, and wear footwear that's suitable for serious walking.
Visiting Pooh Corner and the Ashdown Forest
Pooh Corner can be found on Hartfield High Street, TN7 4AE. There is limited, free on-road parking in Hartfield village, but finding a space can be tricky. If you can bear (!) the walk, head to Pooh Car Park and walk up from there. All Ashdown Forest car parks are free to park in at time of writing, but note that there are plans to introduce charges in the not too distant future. Spaces are limited and they get full quickly when the weather's good. This Ashdown Forest map is useful for tracking down the Winnie the Pooh landmarks.
Arriving by public transport is slightly more tricky, but Pooh Corner offers some useful directions. Bear in mind that the Ashdown Forest is exactly that — a forest — so facilities such as toilets and cafes are limited. The only official Ashdown Forest toilets are in the Visitor Centre, a couple of miles away from the Winnie the Pooh attractions, though there are pubs and tea rooms dotted all over the forest.