In 1925, A.A. Milne bought Cotchfield Farm outside of the town of Hartfield in East Sussex. Although the farm is now privately owned, there is a public path and we are in need of an “Expotition”.
We arrived in Hartfield by bus from the town of Tunbridge Wells. Hartfield is a tiny village, listed in the Doomsday book of 1086. It is basically one street, with tiny converted cottages and two inns. We stopped at the Anchor Inn (built in the 15thcentury) for a pub lunch (Fisherman’s pie, locally made).
Across from the Anchor Inn was “Pope’s Cottage”, originally built in the 13thcentury. At the end of the main street was a little sweets shop that was frequented by a young Christopher Robin.
Our pilgrimage begins at the sweets shop, where we are able to pick up a map to Pooh Bridge. Maps are available in English and in Japanese, as are instructions for how to play “Pooh Sticks”.
Our walk to the bridge takes us 2 miles out of the village, over wooden stiles, through sheep fields, along a public pathway bedecked with raspberry canes. The day is perfect, with billowy clouds against a bright blue sky and just a hint of breeze.
It takes us a leisurely 40 minutes, and as we come toward the bridge we see a beautiful tiny wooden door set in a tree.
An inscription has long since worn off, but we can still see, at the top of the door, the engraving: “Mr. Sanders”. (“Winnie-the Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders”)
Beyond is the bridge.
It was restored in 1979, and is solid wood, strong enough for the horse traffic that comes along this path. The sunlight dapples the river, showing a proliferation of small sticks on the downstream side.
We add our small offerings into the pile, racing from one side of the bridge to the other to see them come through.
Back in Hartfield we have tea in the Rose Garden of the sweets shop (called “Pooh Corner” now). A perfect day. Some go to Lourdes. Others go to Pooh Bridge.
“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” Winnie-the-Pooh