Ladies & gentlemen, the bear has left the building.  

Sunday, 2 September 2007

We are trying to make the best of the last few days of Summer holiday we have left before Moe starts school. Today's adventure was to the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. The idea was to visit the wood that was the inspiration for A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh. Maybe it's just me, but I would have thought that such an iconic place would be well documented and well celebrated online, but no. After a good amound of searching, I eventually I found a hand-drawn map depicting the location of the woodland in question, and armed with this and our trusty 1985 roadmap of England, we set sail in hope of finding, if not small yellow bears and enchanted forests, at least some pretty scenery. We also wanted to give Moe, brought up on the Disneyed-version of the Pooh stories, the opportunity to say in future life that she had walked in the 100 Acre Wood and experienced for herself the magical charm of this ancient woodland.

Well, naturally we were sadly disappointed on all fronts. For starters, there were hardly any bloody trees there at all! Maybe I'm a bit old fashioned, but to mind, the one vital ingredient that an enchanted forest needs is trees. Instead of deep mysterious woodland, the whole area is basically gorse and bracken. Impressive though the view might be, "Blasted heath" just doesn't have the same emotional appeal as enchanted woodland really.

The second big disappointment was that the local authority had made no effort whatsoever to make the 5km walk remotely interesting for the many visitors the site obviously attracts. How much would it take to put up a few Pooh-related signs - even some bloody directions would be a start. The "Enchanted Place" is actually just a dense clump of pine trees; Roo's sandpit is actually a festering swamp, filled with half-rotten timber; Eeyore's place is a muddy quagmire with a filthy stream running through it.

It's easy to criticise Disney for sanitising and plasticising everything they get their hands on, Pooh being possibly the most telling example. Yet, they know a thing or two about presentation. I read that the locals in the Ashdown Forest were up in arms when Disney Corp offered to fund the renovation of the famous Pooh bridge. I cannot see why, when nobody seems to care very much about making the best of the original. Conservatism for the sake of it does not accomplish anything. Much as I dislike the falsified,plastic Disney vision of the world, sometimes we need a little magic. Instead of magic, Moe will just remember a muddy and pointless slog through te English countryside. What a pity.

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