Monday, 21 November 2011

Ashdown Forest (or Winnie-the-Pooh land!)

I love the Lake District but there are also some fabulous places to walk in the Kent and Sussex area where I live.  One of my favourite places here is Ashdown Forest in Sussex.  It is an area of ancient heathland and forest that reaches a height of 732 feet above sea level and covers 6,500 acres.  It is also the home of Winnie-the-Pooh as created by A.A. Milne and illustrated by E.H.Shepherd.  The Winnie-the-Pooh stories are set in this forest and you can visit Hundred Acre Wood, the Enchanted Place, the Heffalump Trap and play pooh-sticks.
My Eeyore
Ashdown Forest also has a rich heritage and history (other than Winnie-the-Pooh).  To highlight just a few areas, it as an important part of the iron-making history of England, a hunting forest since the Norman times and it had a key role in World War II (including being the base for Radio Aspidistra)!  There is a visitor centre there that captures the history and supports local crafts.  Last time I was there, a whole part of the centre had been put aside to sell local wooden crafts (and yes I made several purchases including a wine stopper!)

The Enchanted Place

My latest walk at Ashdown began at Gills Lap, the main car-park to start the Winnie-the-Pooh trail.  I have an excellent GPS and Ordnance Survey map for this part of the world but today I walked with the leaflet from the Visitor Centre to make sure I found all the right sites! It was a beautiful day, with hardly a cloud in the sky and warm even though it was November.  I set off from the car-park and headed towards the Enchanted Place. 

It is only a few minutes’ walk but as soon as you arrive, you can see why Milne was captivated by the area and the views.  According to the stories, this is where Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and friends set off to discover the North Pole.  They saw this place as ‘Enchanted’ because no-one had managed to count whether there were 63 or 64 trees in it and because they could sit down without prickly vegetation!  I found this beautiful toadstool though which sealed the magic for me.

The Heffalump Trap
A few hundred yards further on, I headed towards the Lone Pine and Heffalump Trap.  This is in actual fact a small hollow where there remains a lone pine.  There is some debate about whether this is the actual place where the Heffalump Trap was but to me it seems like it must have been.  It is a really pretty area and next to it is a beautiful tree with red buds.   

I wish my knowledge of vegetation stretched to knowing what it is called but whilst I have a fair knowledge of wild flowers sadly shrubs and trees are less of a speciality - please leave a comment below if you can help me.  
The Tree with Red Buds

 A really lovely feature of the Heffalump Trap is the path that leads away from it – it is a short gully with branches growing over the top.  I have not found anywhere else like this in Ashdown Forest.

A bit further on from The Heffalump Trap is an area established as a commemoration to Milne and Shepherd with a plaque, which says they “collaborated in the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh and so captured the magic of Ashdown Forest and gave it to the world”.  I find there are interesting similarities between the impact they had on Ashdown Forest and the magic created by Beatrix Potter in the Lake District.  An interesting future thesis perhaps?

I have always been a Winnie-the-Pooh fan (Eeyore being my particular favourite) and have found some of the quotes in the stories more helpful than some of the most famous leaders and inspirational speakers!
“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference”
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”
See?  Who needs therapy!
100 Acre Wood
Anyway....I digress.  The walk continued to Roo’s Sandy Pit (a quarry that actually was more muddy and overgrown than sandy but still fascinating to see).  All these parts of the walk were in close succession but it all opened out at this point.  I headed towards Five Hundred Acre Wood, which for Winnie-the-Pooh was One Hundred Acre Wood (or 100 Aker Wood to quote him specifically!)  To get there, I had to pass the ‘North Pole’ site, which is just past a little bridge across a stream.  You may be interested to know that Pooh actually discovered the North Pole first!  The views were superb around this area and it is a real place for families to enjoy.  

Yellow Gorse
One of the most beautiful parts of Ashdown at this time of the year is the yellow gorse.  To me yellow is a spring colour so it was nice to see it so abundantly.  The walk back to Gill’s Lap is a beautiful stroll through open heathland with small clumps of pine trees dotted around and even the occasional Christmas tree.  Somewhere in the area below the path is ‘Eeyore’s Gloomy Place’ but I saw nothing gloomy about it at all.  A great walk in a great area made all the more special by fond childhood memories.  This was only a two mile walk but for those feeling more adventurous, there are miles and miles to explore.

No visit would be complete without an ice-cream from the local vans or a visit to the Pooh shop in Hartfield by the way!
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  1. Excellent blog. Your writing really brings alive a place I have not been to for a long time. I will definitely go back.
    Some writers stick to technical descriptions but I like the way you bring imagination to your writing.
    Looking forward to the next one.

  2. Thanks. I have always loved Ashdown and Winnie-the-Pooh so a winning combination!

  3. Thank you for posting such nice things about the Forest - its really good to hear that people are enjoying their days out - so often we get grouches and complaints, so its lovely to read something so positive!

  4. No problem - it is a great place :)

  5. Great to see this walk through your eyes.
    You know I think that Winnie the Pooh divides people. I think the characters are wonderful and that they tell us a lot about life. Like you, I love Eeyore the best. He expects so little from life. He says:
    "Thanks for noticing me". He is just so lovable.
    But my partner Max just does not get Winnie the Pooh at all and no amount of explaining can make him change his opinion. So there you are - we're a funny bunch us humans!

  6. You could be right! He is my leadership guru though and Eeyore I just want to cuddle as he looks so sad!
    Before I set up my own company I worked for an organisation where I had quite a large team - they used to tell me I had "Tigger moments" when I got excited about an idea or plan of action. I think I still have a sense of child in me and I hope I always do!

  7. I have it on excellent authority (from Ashdown Park itself) that the tree with red buds is in fact a holly tree! I really should have been able to work that out! :)

  8. Another great read and a trip down memory lane to reading my children bedtime stories.

  9. I will always have fond memories of Winnie-the-Pooh...and of course Peter Rabbit an friends!

  10. What a lovely walk through the park! Thank you.

    ~ Aithne

  11. Am enjoying reading these. I have never been to Ashdown. After having read this will make an effort to explore this summer.


  12. It is a great place and you can do as much or as little as you like. Wonderful views and sights.... :)

  13. Lovely blog Tanya. Never been to this area of the UK but it sounds lovely. Have you ever though about sharing out your GPS tracks and photos so other people can re-use on GPS? I use EveryTrail, works really well and have also picked up some good walks from it too.

    Thanks for posting.

    1. Thank you! Such a great part of the world and a lovely walk.
      I will look into the GPS thing - I use a Garmin 62s so capture my routes anyway so a good idea.

    2. Yes it's definitely worthwhile if you do record routes and take pics as we can all benefit from downloading your routes!

      Also worth looking into are the free OpenStreeMap based maps done for Garmin GPSr by TalkyToaster

      Not only are they very detailed, they are free and also updated constantly by the community, meaning that if you walk a track that's not on the map you can update OSM directly and all will benefit. It will even be on your GPSr on the next update too! have recently switched all there mapping from Google to OSM too as detailed here

      I often update OSM after my walks as you can see here

      Quite nice to think that any update I make, many other people will benefit.

    3. I didn't know any of that so thank you! I will look at all the information. It would be good to get some free maps for my Garmin otherwise I only have the 1:25,000 for the LakeDistrict (only have 1:50,000 for rest of UK and that is not detailed enough).
      Great information!

  14. Well Eeyore is definitely looking well-loved..! Lovely pics - I don't need to know shrub names to appreciate how pretty they are (I regularly fail on this one too!) It should be an oligatory part of growing up to visit somewhere called The Heffalump Trap. This post sent me scuttling off to rediscover those priceless "Poohisms" Think this one is very true of blogging (or writing in general) "When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."

    1. I am such a Winnie-the-Pooh fan - he is my leadership guru! If you listen to his wise words you can't go far wrong!
      My Eeyore has had his fur loved off bless him.
      Thanks for commenting :-)