Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Hip Hip Pooh-Ray: On the Hunt for Winnie the Pooh (19/07/2013)

Pooh Corner Store

For the main assignment of this class, we have to write an extensive research paper on a subject or concept of our choosing. After much thought, and many ideas later, the notion of writing about A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh came to light. With some researching and some creative thinking, I managed to find a few sites in England that dealt specifically with this silly ol’ bear and his creator. Today was my first adventure to find more information. 

Living in England, A.A. Mine based a lot of the 100 Aker Woods on cultivated pine plantation, known as the 500Acre Wood, located in the South East part of the country. To get there from where we were staying would be an hour train ride from Victoria Station to East Grinstead and then a 45 minute bus ride from there to Hartfield, which would land you right in the middle of Pooh Country. After seeing how easy this trip would be, and seeing what a beautiful day it was out, I decide to pack a bag and make my way to the countryside. 

Upon arriving in Hartfield, the first stop I made was to Pooh Corner. Built in 1978, this store has been specializing in all things Winnie the Pooh for 35 years. There is shop and a little restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating, appropriately named Piglet’s Tearoom. Seeing as it was early in the afternoon, I thought the store would be empty around this time, boy was I wrong. There were at least two school groups in here, each around 15-20 students, and then a few other tourists like me. I spent a few minutes looking in the different rooms and taking a glance at some of the things for sale. There were original Pooh animals, Disney version stuffed animals (yes theres is a difference between the two), books, coloring pages, tea towels, bookmarks and hundreds of other items for sale all concerning Pooh Bear and his forest friends. As I waited for the massive crowds to file out, I did pick up a few items for myself and a friend’s daughter, when in Pooh Country, right? Once things had died down a bit, I had the pleasure of talking to one of the shop owners, who’s name I’m embarrassed to say escapes me at the moment. She told me that store constantly has visitors, including groups like the ones that had just left. She was kind enough to give me a brief history about the store and talked to me about some of her favorite stories and Pooh memories. After seeing the physical store and speaking with the lovely owner, it’s no wonder Pooh Corner has been around for nearly 4 decades. 

Let the journey begin

Pooh Sticks Bridge 
My journey didn’t stop at the store. From there, I went on a hike through the Ashdown Forest to find some memorable sites from the fictional 100 Akers. Luckily, the store had a map that would guide me through the woods and take me to the exact bridge that Milne used as the famous Pooh Sticks Bridge in his stories. If you don’t know what Pooh Sticks is, I highly endcourage you to look up the story and learn, it is adorable! With my “expotition” map in hand, I started a two mile trek through the woods. I won’t bore you with all the details of bushes and trees that were along the adventure, but I will say I had a moment or two where I almost gave up because I didn’t know if I was lost or not. I persevered though and nearly an hour later, I found my way to the famous bridge. There were about  five to six other people there and it looked like a few of them were playing some Pooh Sticks. Once again, if you don’t know what that means, go read the story! Spending some time admiring the scenery, snapping a few photos and just relishing in the fact that I was in the same neck of the woods that Milne used in his stories, I soaked up the peaceful ambiance of the area. From there, I continued on my way and found some other locations used in the classic tales, like the Heffalump trap and Roo’s Sandpit. Unfortunately, as the afternoon progressed, I knew I had to start making my way back to civilization and figure out how to get back to London. Thinking I would find a shortcut, I attempted to find a new way back to the main road that the store was on, and it was a shortcut that took me about 5 miles on a country road. Suffice it to say, I learned an important lesson with that one, follow the map provided! 

Spending a day in the 100 Aker Woods, walking the paths that Christopher Robin and his friends walked and seeing the actual places Milne used in his stories really inspired me to write my research paper. There was a lot of food for thought involved and I can’t wait to start doing some research to see where the paper will go. 

For more information or to take a virtual tour of the woods, check out the store's website:

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