Poohsticks: our favourite bridges to play Winnie the Pooh’s game
Poohsticks, the game created by Winnie the Pooh (with the help of author AA Milne) in 1928 in The House at Pooh Corner, still holds a place in our hearts today. Here, CPRE staff share some of the best places for a good game of Poohsticks.
For the uninitiated (and really, you haven’t lived), Poohsticks is the game created by Winnie the Pooh by accident after he accidentally drops a fir-cone into the river and notices it reappear on the other side of the bridge.
That was all the way back in 1928, in AA Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner, the second volume of the tales of the adventures of the eponymous bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.
The game lives on, and most of us can still hardly resist a quick game of throwing a stick off the bridge and seeing it race underneath when on a countryside walk.
Best bridges around
The rules of the game are clear (and you can even compete at World Champion level if you wish, or cunningly deploy some physics to increase your chances of a win). But it all depends on the best possible bridge, with a good flow of water below and clearance for your chosen twig, selected with care, to race others beneath.
Well search no more, as at CPRE, as big fans of the countryside, we’re also, naturally, big fans of a game or two of Poohsticks. We’ve collated our top Poohstick bridges in England – read on to find your nearest, choose your weapon (stick) and get racing!
And remember: don’t get your stick stuck.
Faye: Stepping Stones footbridge in Dorking, Surrey
This bridge is found on the the Box Hill Stepping Stones walk. The whole walk is a lot of up and down the hill, so prepare to get puffing!
After cartwheeling down the 275 steps from the top of Box Hill you get to the River Mole, and walking right along the river you come to the Stepping Stones footbridge.
I did this walk a lot as a child as Box Hill isn’t far from my parents’ home and making your children run up a hill is a good way to wear them out. The best part of the walk was, and is still, hopping across the stepping stones over the river – but if the water level is high, covering the stepping stones, you have to go over the footbridge. And what better way to cheer up a child disappointed by the flooded stepping stones than a few games of Poohsticks?
Ros: Footbridge in Beeley, the Peak District
My favourite bridge for Poohsticks is a tiny unassuming footbridge just off the road in Beeley, a small village in the Peak District.
We moved here when our children were very young and it was a great source of fun, whilst also getting them outdoors and learning about nature. The bridge is the perfect height and width for a small child and with lots of overhanging trees, there’s a plentiful supply of sticks. It’s a magical place, like a scene from Narnia when it snows, and they have fond memories of it to this day.
Over the years we introduced many of their friends to Poohsticks, including most recently my daughter’s adult boyfriend who’d missed out on this most joyful of games as a child.
We’ve enjoyed playing Poohsticks throughout the year, when the brook has been raging with rainwater flowing down from the hills, to dry spells when it’s been barely a trickle and the sticks have needed a lot of encouragement to move!
Ally: Pooh Sticks Bridge, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
I have some happy memories of visiting this humble wooden bridge on a short walk with some of my favourite people in the world: my godson and his big brother (oh, and I suppose their parents too).
It’s made all the more of a Poohsticking adventure when you remember that Ashdown Forest has true Winnie the Pooh lineage, as inspiration for the 100 Acre Wood, and this bridge has seen devout Poohstick fans battle it out over the years.
Well, us young guns were the latest to choose our sticks and have a clash of the Titans in this iconic location. It all went off swimmingly, with sticks of various sizes (including the impossibly large and unwieldy) being given a run until the inevitable disaster struck and one stick went MIA during a heated race.
Cue some peeping through the bridge, on tenterhooks, to see if it would free itself – or indeed, as in the original story in The House at Pooh Corner, whether Eeyore himself would come floating out the other side. Regrettably for us, no Eeyore emerged – and that stick is probably still under there…
Chris: Wooden bridge over the River Wey, Surrey
In Surrey, where the River Wey gently meanders between Wisley Common and the ancient village of Pyrford (old English for pear tree ford), there was an old wooden bridge. A short walk past the old mill, down a flat path, sheltered by a tunnel of trees and with plenty of suitable sticks to choose from, you come to a bend in the river.
Wait a while on the bank before crossing, when my parents could keep me quiet for a few moments, and they were often rewarded with the bright flash of a kingfisher darting over the river – although I don’t actually recall ever seeing one myself!
The bridge was quite high over the water, and whilst always seeming safe, the wooden boards creaked just enough to give a thrill to children looking for adventure.
Down below, the river flowed swift and softly, making it the perfect place for a satisfying Poohsticks race, which my sister and I would insist upon every time we came on this walk with our parents.
I don’t remember now which of us tallied up the most wins, but it was always mesmerising to watch the sticks bobble, swirl and spin as they sailed away downstream. On the other side of the river, you shortly arrive at the River Wey canal and turning left to extend your jaunt you can pass by the summer house of Elizabethan poet John Donne, and the gothic ruins of Newark Priory (apparently demolished by cannon fire during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries).
When I last went there, the wooden bridge was gone, replaced with a nearby metal structure over a golf course, and sadly the ecological and chemical status of the Wey is poor on many stretches of the river but with a little help, hopefully this can once again become a magical place for future generations of children to play Poohsticks too.
Cat: Bridge over Magdale Dam, Honley, West Yorkshire
My favourite Poohsticks bridge is literally a few minutes walk from where I grew up. I spent my childhood playing Poohsticks there and now I take my kids – and my parents – to play whenever I go and visit.
The village is also especially lovely because it’s been looked after by a Village Community Trust since 1993, when a group of locals got together to protect and care for the area. They immediately snapped up an area at the edge of the village that was a much-loved local beauty spot. This is Magdale Fields, and they made sure it was kept as a green space for local people to enjoy and as a place for kids to explore nature.
The fact that we still make a beeline there for more rounds of Poohsticks when we’re all visiting is proof, if any were needed, that you’re never too old for a game of throwing twigs into streams!
‘Very quiet and peaceful’
‘Well,’ said Christopher Robin, not quite sure what it was all about, ‘I think-‘
‘Yes?’ said everybody.
‘I think we all ought to play Poohsticks!’
So they did. And Eeyore, who had never played it before, won more times than anybody else; and Roo fell in twice, the first time by accident and the second time on purpose, because he suddenly saw Kanga coming from the Forest, and he knew he’d have to go to bed anyhow. So then Rabbit said he’d go with them; and Tigger and Eeyore went off together, because Eeyore wanted to tell Tigger How to Win at Poohsticks, which you do by letting your stick drop in a twitchy sort of way, if you understand what I mean, Tigger; and Christopher Robin and Pooh and Piglet were left on the bridge by themselves.
For a long time they looked at the river beneath them, saying nothing, and the river said nothing too, for it felt very quiet and peaceful on this summer afternoon.
This extract is taken from the end of Chapter VI of The House at Pooh Corner, entitled: In which Pooh invents a new game and Eeyore joins in (AA Milne, 1928).