The reason A.A.Milne left his apartment in Chelsea London, to live with his wife and young child in Hartfield was the Ashdown Forest.
"Anyone who has read the stories knows the Forest and doesn't need me to describe it. Pooh's Forest and Ashdown Forest are identical."
The Enchanted Places - Christopher Milne
The Forest has a colourful history so I thought you might like to hear some of it.
Several hundred years ago the Forest was "enclosed" to keep the deer available for their Majesty's pleasure to hunt and rangers were appointed to patrol the boundaries. The deer still roam much of the 4,000 acres that remain of the ancient enclosed forest and there are rangers that still care for the deer. These days their duties extend to care for all the flora and fauna and, with our help, they conserve the landscape as "An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty". The earliest rangers would have ridden on horseback and today, when they have a permit, riders and their horses are frequently to be seen negotiating the wide fire breaks and rides that criss-cross the rolling heath land. For the many thousands of Pooh fans that flock into Pooh Country in recent years, the most hunted creatures are from the pages of the Pooh storybooks. Although sightings are almost unheard of, the intrepid Pooh hunter can find tracks. It is obvious to the Pooh fan that these tracks have been made by Pooh and Tigger (sometimes made by dogs), and Piglet (sometimes made by the deer). Then you can discover tracks made by Eeyore (sometimes made by ponies), and Kanga (sometimes made by very large dogs) and Wol & Rabbit (probably made by Owls & rabbits)!
To enter the Forest in the early days, you came through "Gates" or "Hatches". These can still be identified in the place names that surround the old forest area: Friar's Gate, Chelwood Gate, Poundgate Road, Highgate Green, Coleman's Hatch, Plawhatch and Chuck Hatch.
During the 14th Century the Forest was called Lancaster Great Park. The animals found in the area at that time were the Red Deer (hart and hind), Fallow Deer and Roe Deer (buck and doe), Boar (including piglet's) Wolf, Fox, Pine Marten, Hare and Rabbit. It was a hunting ground for John of Gaunt who was the Duke of Lancaster and third son of King Edward III. It was on hunting trips here that three centuries later King Henry VIII met and courted Ann Boleyn, who lived at nearby Hever. The Monarch of Royal beasts, hunted in the area, was the herds of deer. The name for a male Red Deer is hart which, as you can see, is forever enshrined in the name Hartfield.
The Iron Industry
It was here, in the South East of England, that craftsmen first developed the blast furnace. Hartfield was the centre of the iron industry in Elizabethan times and the cannon of the British Fleet, was forged in the area. Those were the days of great world influence for Britain. But centuries before, the power was with the Romans and they too mined and smelted iron in the area. The Roman road from London to Lewes runs through the Forest taking an uncharacteristic couple of turns close to where, centuries later, English Kings hunted the deer at "King's Standing".
The Forest Today
The Forest as we see it today is divided into a carefully managed balance between woodland (40%) and heath land (60%). This 'lowland heath' is part of one of the rarest and most threatened habitats in Europe, and is the home to many important animal and plant species. These include Nightjars, Dartford Warblers, Silver-studded Blue butterflies, Bog Asphodels, insect-eating Sundews, Marsh Gentians and three species of heather. The Conservators have recently partially enclosed up to 1,360 acres with fencing. This has been done in an attempt to protect grazing cattle and sheep from the hazard of motor traffic. The grazing is thought to help maintain the character and lowland heath environment and it is hoped will not seriously damage the delicate flora.
All these places have survived Hurricanes, bolts of lightning and forest fires. With your help we care for the countryside. We hope these special places will be there for future generations to enjoy. To visit and play in the same way that Christopher Robin and Pooh did all those years ago,
"So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."
The House at Pooh Corner - A.A.Milne
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