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A Walking Tour Of The Real Hundred Acre Wood

A map of A.A. Milne's Hundred Acre Woods, reproduced in Kathryn Aalto's "The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh."
Kathryn Aalto
A map of A.A. Milne's Hundred Acre Woods, reproduced in Kathryn Aalto's "The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh."

A Walking Tour Of The Real Hundred Acre Wood
A Walking Tour Of The Real Hundred Acre Wood GUEST: Kathryn Aalto, author, "The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh"

The most beloved children's books create places that you can remember all your life. There is the magic of Harry Potter's Hogwarts Academy. Or even the feast of the Tuesday down and who built. You can remember those places but you can't actually go there except for one of the most famous worlds ever created in children's literature. Winnie the Pooh's 100 acre with actually exists. I spoke with Kathryn Aalto author of the natural world of Winnie the Pooh. Where is the location that inspired the Hundred Acre Woods and how closely does it was a Brett. The Hundred Acre Woods is located about an hour south of London it's called Ashdown Forest. It's a 60 -- it's a wildlife Hayden -- haven. It is where A.A. Milne moved in 1925 to give his real son a kind of free range Charles -- childhood that he had growing up. You can visit it today. It is like I said it has shady dappled light on some of the with and then you can head up to the top of the forest where there is a wonderful heathland and a rich tapestry of purple heather and it's not like coconut in the summer. It is punctuated by wild Scots Pines. It is so close to friends you can nearly smell the hunting. Does it feel like you are inside a storybook? That's the strange thing. It really does. I am a landscape historian so when I went up there I was looking for the ways I could read the landscape like a text and gauge the plants and I'm looking for real places that inspired the stories. There becomes a funny blur between the fictional and the real world and is very magical and enchanting and it really does feel like you are walking through the pages of an illustration. Author A.A. Milne used his son as the little boy in the pullbacks. -- In the books. It's a combination of things. The first is that he moved damage to give his son the kind of child that he had. A.A. Milne had a wonderful childhood. His father used to say keep out-of-doors as much as you can. She has the most wonderful exhibition. Always open and always free. His free -- his sons could wander to a lot of places. Even as an eight-year-old he writes about working 18 miles. It's remembering his own childhood and remembering how his own son was playing and that is taking walks with his father and then the third thing is using his own imagination to make the characters and stuffed animals come alive and so forth. Considering how incredibly popular the playbooks -- the Winnie the Pooh books have been you would think that it would become a tourist attraction. Is that the way this forest is. The ironic thing is that it is preserved because it is a rare his fund. I talk about why that is in the book. I talk about it being a common area and people kept the landscape down. It was changed into this heathland and as a result parts of rare birds and insects and plants grow their so the forest is protected and it has lots of scientific destinations around the. It's not protected because it's Winnie the Pooh country and the conservators of the country said hey let's preserve it because it's Winnie the Pooh country. The landscape preservation conserve the literary landscape that we know so well. Something that goes hand-in-hand with the idea of preserving this natural world you compared the adventures of Winnie the Pooh with the TV series sign filled -- Seinfeld. Is that part of the attraction? The dialogue seems a lot like Seinfeld and that they seem to be talking about nothing but for children doing nothing is a very important something. He did that. By nothing a means unscheduled time. For modern parents there's overscheduling and helicopter parenting and everybody has to be in soccer and so forth. It is nice and vital for the children's imaginations to give an unscheduled free time away from the watchful eyes of parents. They want to make sure they are safe but it's important for children to daydream and use their imaginations and falling off an Apple or to look at the rays of light coming through grass and of course that is important because when children Laron -- learn to care for the natural environment there are future stewards so we need them to develop connections with the natural world. Kathryn Aalto is the author of the natural world of Winnie the Pooh. A walk through the forest that inspired the 100 acre wood she will be speaking about her book the Saturday at the Ramona Garden club and library and Mission Hill's Garden club. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. It has been a delight.

Bluebell flowers in Ashdown Forest, the basis for A.A. Milne's Hundred Acre Woods, in an undated photo.
Kathryn Aalto
Bluebell flowers in Ashdown Forest, the basis for A.A. Milne's Hundred Acre Woods, in an undated photo.

A.A. Milne published his first "Winnie-the-Pooh" stories 90 years ago, but the English countryside that inspired his beloved children's books is nearly unchanged today.

The Hundred Acre Wood, where Christopher Robin played with Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and others, was based on Ashdown Forest in southeast England, about 30 miles outside of London. Milne bought a country house there and took his family to Ashdown on weekends and summers. Milne's walks with his son Christopher Robin, and Christopher's stuffed dolls, were the start of his Pooh stories.

Landscape historian Kathryn Aalto, a California expat living in England, said that much of Ashdown Forest looks the same as it did in Milne's day, and some specific locations look like living E.H. Shepard illustrations.

Pooh fans may recognize Roo's Sandy Pit, the Enchanted Place and Poohsticks Bridge if they visit Ashdown, Aalto writes in her book "The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh."

"It still looks like you’re walking through the pages of the book," Aalto said. "If you know that Milne walked in this real place with his son, that adds some magic to it. It’s not just all fiction."

Aalto joins KPBS Midday Edition on Monday to discuss why Ashdown seems frozen in time.

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