Tuesday, 26 February 2013
With spring on the horizon lots of us are thinking of long rambles in the quiet of the countryside. In East Sussex the Ashdown Forest is always popular as here, apart from the birdsong and the wind soughing in the tall grasses and occasional trees, all is quiet. And there are the scents of the flowers and herbs which are delicious. Of course it depends on the time of year you are there as to what you see and smell. For example, in spring it is possible to find cushions of pale yellow primroses, drifts of bluebells, bright yellow gorse and, someone once told me, they had seen wild irises and orchids. Later in the year the moors acquire a lavender carpet as the heather blooms.
Ashdown Forest is an ancient forest upon which, fortunately, builders no longer encroach to create more towns. The 10 square miles/2,396 hectares of woods themselves consist of oaks, ash and beech with a floor of ferns. Deep in the forest look out for the Fallow deer. Shy creatures and delightful to watch.
Probably the most famous resident of Ashdown Forest is Winnie-the-Pooh. A.A. Milne, who wrote the Christopher Robin stories, lived on the northern edge of the forest and in his books re-named some of his favourite places.
For example, Gills Lap became Galleons Lap where there is now a memorial to A.A. Milne and E.H. Shephard, the illustrator of the Pooh books. There are also designated Pooh Walks which start from here.
All of Pooh’s fans have to visit the Poohsticks Bridge and I am no exception. Obviously playing Pooh Sticks is more fun when there is more than one of you, but I usually manage by using ‘competing’ sticks.
The Bridge is just outside the village of Hartfield which is a good excuse to go and visit Winnie-the-Pooh Corner, a shop in a 300-years-old building, and buy yet more souvenirs. The Church of St. Mary the Virgin is even older – 13th century. It is more famous for its high points - these are the West Tower and the Broach Spire.
Like Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, Piglet and Roo, at the end of the day it is time to head for home after a day of adventures in the Enchanted Places of Ashdown Forest.