A spectacular woodland walk exploring the haunts of AA Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh and his much-loved friends.
Distance 7 miles (11.3km)
Minimum time 3hrs
Ascent/gradient 170ft (55m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Paths and tracks across farmland and woodland, 20 stiles
Landscape Undulating farmland and dense woodland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 135 Ashdown Forest
Start/finish TQ 472332
Dog friendliness Some woodland stretches suitable for dogs off lead. On lead where notices indicate
Parking Pooh free car park, off B2026 south of Hartfield
Public toilets By village hall in Hartfield
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 Follow the path signposted 'Pooh Bridge', take the third turning on the right and go down to a stile. Cross a tree-ringed field to a stile near the corner, follow the woodland path to another stile and head diagonally right across the field to a fourth stile by a gate. Cross the drive to a fifth stile and gate, then aim right to another gate. Go forward to a stile and the road.
2 Turn left, then bear right opposite The Paddocks and follow the path through Five Hundred Acre Wood to reach the Wealdway. Continue ahead, passing Kovacs Lodge. Climb quite steeply and make a wide sweep to the left. Follow the track round to the right to a fork, veer left and approach a private drive sign.
3 Take the right-hand path and skirt a farm. Rejoin the drive and keep right, following the Wealdway as it cuts across undulating farmland. Pass a turning to Buckhurst and then bear left over a stile to follow the High Weald Landscape Trail. Cross the field to a gate and stile and cut through the wood to a brick bridge.
4 Turn right here and follow the fence, passing some paddocks. Veer right through the gateway in the field corner and make for the next field ahead. Head diagonally left across farmland to a stile. Keep to the right edge of the field to a stile, then cross a footbridge and continue by the field edge. Turn left at a stile and enter Hartfield.
5 Bear right at the B2026, then left. Cross a stile in the field corner and continue over the next stile to the Forest Way. Turn left and follow the old trackbed until you reach a gate on the left. Cross the pasture to a gate and follow the woodland bridleway. Emerging from the trees, continue to Culvers Farm.
6 Make for the road. When you reach it turn left and walk along to the first right-hand footpath, signposted 'Pooh Bridge'. Cross the stile here and follow the clear track ahead to three further stiles before crossing a field. Follow the waymarks and make for a stile in the corner. Cross a drive to another stile and head diagonally down the field to a stile in the corner. Continue on the path and head for the next stile. Follow the lane south.
7 When it sweeps left towards Cotchford Farm, go straight on along the public bridleway to Pooh Bridge, then follow the track as it climbs gradually alongside woodland and paddocks. Turn left at the road and when it bends around to the right, go straight ahead into the trees. Follow the footpath through the wood, back to the Pooh car park.
If as a child you were spellbound by the magic of Winnie-the-Pooh, then this glorious woodland walk will rekindle many happy memories of AA Milne's wonderful stories. Ashdown Forest, the real-life setting for Winnie-the-Pooh, represents the largest area of uncultivated land in south east England, covering about 20 square miles (58sq km) in northern East and West Sussex. Once part of the much larger Wealden Forest, the area is now a very attractive mix of high, open heathland and oak and birch woodland scattered across the well-wooded sandstone hills of the High Weald. William Cobbett described it as 'verily the most villainously ugly spot I ever saw in England,' though exploring the forest today, with its sunny glades and spacious heathland, it would be hard to agree with him.
Ashdown was a royal forest for 300 years, established by John of Gaunt in 1372. Then, it was a place of wild beauty and thick woodland, so dense in places that at one time over a dozen guides were required to lead travellers from one end to the other. After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, large parts of the forest were enclosed and given to Royalist supporters. About 6,400 acres (2,500ha) were dedicated to the Commoners and remain freely accessible to the public. Ashdown Forest is cared for by Conservators, and today is the domain of the city dweller seeking peaceful recreation in the country. Despite this invasion, it is still largely unspoilt. It's hard to believe that it lies only 30 miles(48km) from London.
There is much more to this place than trees. At first glance, the forest's vegetation may look rather bland but closer inspection reveals considerable variation. In the valley bottoms, wet bogs proliferate, dominated by sphagnum mosses. Round-leaved sundew, marsh clubmoss and cotton-grass also thrive in many of the bogs. The distinctive deep blue flowers of marsh gentians add a dash of colour during the autumn. The open pools are home to the nymphs of dragonflies and damselflies while the drier valley slopes are carpeted with plants such as ling, bell heather and bracken. The higher ground supports gorse and purple moor-grass.
The walk begins in a corner of Five Hundred Acre Wood - the 'Hundred Acre Wood' of AA Milne's stories. The return leg briefly follows a disused railway line before heading south across rolling countryside, passing close to Cotchford Farm, where AA Milne lived, and crossing Pooh Bridge, built in 1907 and restored in 1979. This Ashdown Forest landmark is where Milne portrays Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin playing 'Poohsticks'.
Pause for a bit of shopping or browsing in Hartfield. In the main street is Pooh Corner, containing the largest selection of 'Pooh-phernalia' in the world. The shop is open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and 1 January.
There is a popular tea room, the Honey Pot, in Hartfield and, on the route of the walk in the village centre, is the Anchor Inn which has a varied menu with dishes such as salmon fishcakes, prawn stir-fry, and ham, egg and chips. Soup, sandwiches, ploughmans and baked potatoes are also available.
Approaching the village of Hartfield, note the 700-year-old church and its ancient lychgate which includes a good example of pargeting or ornamental plasterwork. Picturesque Lych Gate Cottage is one of the oldest and smallest houses in the area. Try and find the plaque indicating an approximate date of 1520 and go into the churchyard for a better view of this lovely old building. Near by is an ancient yew tree, often found in country churchyards. The yew is thought to be a symbol of mortality and resurrection, providing protection from evil.