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.
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.
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!