Ashdown Forest is ‘home’ to Winnie the Pooh, and with part of Pooh Bridge having been rebuilt in 1999, the bridge now offers plenty of opportunities for a game of Pooh sticks. The forest itself offers plenty of walking trails and, although camping is forbidden, there are lots of picnic spots for another sort of outdoors adventure.
For children, the Ashdown Forest Llama Park (01825 712040; www.llamapark.co.uk) is home to not only llamas, but also alpacas and reindeer as well. Guests of Ashdown Park Hotel enjoy free entry. Forest Row, just off the A22, is a ‘Fairtrade village’, which aims to be plastic-bag-free by the end of the year instead of plastic bags, residents have created the Rethink Rubbish jute shopping bag.
Ashdown Park is hosting an artist workshop weekend from October 3–5 with pastel artist Juliet Murray (01342 824988). On October 4, 5, 11 and 12, children can spend the day with Thomas the Tank Engine at the Spa Valley Railway at Tunbrige Wells West (01892 537715; www.spavalleyrailway.co.uk), and even enjoy tea with the Fat Controller himself.
Visitors can enjoy the scenic cross-country drive to nearby Tunbridge Wells, stopping at some of the viewpoints en route for glorious vistas across The Weald, and then head straight for The Pantiles. One of the prettiest areas in the town, it’s home to some charming shops and cafes, as well as playing host for regular events such as crafts and farmer’s markets.
A good place to stay
Ashdown Park Hotel, East Sussex Oh, to have worked for Barclays! For then, Ashdown Park might once have been my office, having been a training centre in the 1970s and 1980s until being turned into a hotel. Before that, it served as a nunnery and a hospital for First World War soldiers. Now, however, it is 186 acres of sweeping landscape, with outstanding service, comfy beds, and brides. Weddings are big business at Ashdown, and no wonder when you see the beautiful chapel. As for me, I was deeply impressed with the service. When a wedding guest blocked our reserved parking space, another was found in seconds. The only problem with the room-service breakfast was that I was still full from my hearty roast beef the night before. Another important detail was the generous selection of Molton Brown toiletries in the large bathroom not only conditioner, but also eye cream and lip balm. I bet it wasn’t like this in the Barclays days. Ashdown Park, Wych Cross, Sussex (01342 824 988; www.ashdownpark.com)
How to get there Ashdown Forest is 1½ hours from London by car. East Grinstead train station is just under an hour’s train journey from London Victoria