Why is Winnie-the-Pooh called Winnie-the-Pooh? Before I answer, here are two recommendations for things to do this autumn: the first is that you should go to see Goodbye Christopher Robin.
This heartbreaking film, which will leave you resolving to spend more time with your children, tells the true story of how the author A. A. Milne occasionally wrenched himself away from his writing desk to play with his son, Christopher Robin.
Yet it was from their games that Milne’s greatest literary creation arose — all those wonderful stories about a bear of very little brain and his adventures with his friends Piglet, Eeyore and the rest.
Goodbye Christopher Robin is a film that documents the life of author A. A. Milne. Above, Pooh Bridge as seen in the new movie
My second recommendation is to take a day trip to Ashdown Forest in East Sussex.
This is where Milne lived in the Twenties while writing the Pooh books, and where much of the movie was shot.
The aquiline-faced author and his cherubic son would wander along the heathland paths and through the sun-dappled woods of oak and pine and play games with the boy’s soft toys.
The forest is just over an hour’s drive from London. Leave your car at Gills Lap car park and amble down the sloping path until you spot a plaque to Milne and illustrator E. H. Shepard.
It’s thanks to Shepard that the scenery seems so strangely familiar to anyone brought up on Pooh. Even the pine trees look just the same.
Carry on down to Five Hundred Acre Wood (which Milne renamed Hundred Acre Wood).
Country adventure: A sign at the Pooh shop in the village of Hartfield
Among the shadows, you’ll spy little tents of branches, where Pooh fans have rebuilt the home of the gloomy donkey, Eeyore. If you go with your own children, take a ball of string for tying branches together.
Another tip: Fill your pockets with twigs.
Your destination is Pooh Bridge, where Christopher Robin and his bear invented the game Poohsticks.
The rules are simple. Each player drops a twig on the upriver side of the bridge, then peers over the downriver side to see whose twig emerges first.
Trouble is, it’s such a popular pastime all the trees nearby have had their twigs torn off.
For lunch, seek out the Anchor Inn in the nearby village of Hartfield. There’s also a little shop devoted to all things Pooh. On that note, what about the origin of that famous name?
It turns out ‘Winnie’ was the moniker of an enormous Canadian bear that lived in London Zoo in the Twenties.
And ‘Pooh’? Milne and his son first gave the name to a local swan. The idea was they would call out ‘Pooh!’ — then a common exclamation of dismay or dismissal — and if the swan didn’t react, they could pretend they had been exclaiming about something quite different.
When christening the bear of very little brain, Milne took back the name from the swan and transferred it. Strange but true.
Goodbye Christopher Robin is showing in cinemas nationwide.