by Terry & Doris Michaud
Yes, Virginia - there really was a Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore and all their friends, and lived and played in a small wooded area called Ashdown Forest near Hartfield, East Sussex in England.
To say that Winnie-the-Pooh has legions of fans would be an understatement. This lovable character created by A.A. Milne nearly 80 years ago has an enormous following among both children and adults around the world.
Keep a lookout for
path markers to Poohsticks Bridge in Hartfield!
If you are a Pooh lover, a trip to Britain must include a visit to the place it all happened. Hartfield is located south of London little more than halfway to Brighton, so a combined trip to both places is ideal. Before heading south, take some time to stop at the Victoria and Albert Museum on Cromwell Road (tube stop South Kensington).
Make your way to the print room, where you can see the actual original drawings of E.H. Shepard, including his work for A.A. Milne's books on Pooh. There are 10 volumes to view, and the attendant will bring them to a table, one box at a time, for your inspection. If you plan to see them all, you will need to allow several hours, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a true fan of Winnie the Pooh.
While much of the property in and near Hartfield where A.A. Milne and his family spent their summers has remained in private hands, there are still some exciting places to visit, including Poohsticks Bridge and a store called Pooh Corner that is located in the original building that housed the candy store where Christopher Robin's nanny would take him to buy his Bullseye candy!
Visitors play Poohsticks
at the bridge
Let the weather decide which place to visit first, as the walk to Poohsticks Bridge from the parking lot can be mired in mud during inclement weather. If it's a sunny day, do the bridge first, and don't forget your camera.
If you plan to play Poohsticks (dropping two sticks off the bridge on the upstream side with the winner's stick appearing first under the bridge on the downstream side) you may want to pick up a few twigs before getting to the bridge, as tourists have managed to keep the area picked clean of appropriate sticks for the game!
You'll also want to allow time to shop at Pooh Corner, for this delightful shop is crammed to the ceiling with Pooh memorabilia and merchandise of every kind imaginable, including a number of items only available at the store or through their mail-order catalogue.
Pooh Corner in
We managed to find a lunch box for our Disney collection that we had not seen before and some exciting prints for framing.
The shop is located right on the High Street and easy to find. From there it is a short drive of a mile or two to the parking area for the walk to the bridge. The famous 100-acre wood is actually Ashdown Forest, which covers some 6,400 acres.
The original Milne home is in private hands and is not marked in any way, as visitors are discouraged. But all of us dedicated Pooh fans know that Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Roo and all of the other characters are still there in the woods, alive if only in our hearts.
Most of the Pooh merchandise in England is based on the Classic Pooh design, while we here in the U.S. are more familiar with the Disney designs. Ironically, all of the original characters are living in the Children's Museum in New York City, provided by Milne's publisher Dutton and Company.
If you are travelling by car in England don't use the rule-of-thumb estimating travel time we use at home in the US, where we allow an hour's travel time for every 60 miles. With few exceptions, the roads in Britain are not the superhighways we are used to, and travel time can take considerably longer, as much as an hour to travel 30 miles.
When buying antiques and collectables, it is common practice to dicker somewhat on the asking price, typically you can expect to receive at least a discount. This is not true of contemporary collectables, as prices are nearly always set on new merchandise. Be sure to get receipts for any purchases for customs declaration purposes.
Britain for Collectors is written by Terry & Doris Michaud, internationally known in the world of teddy bear collectors. They have authored 5 books on collecting and regularly write features for magazines in the U.S. and abroad. In a partnership with Bill & Rosemary Hayes, they conduct annual collector's tours to Great Britain.